A few years ago, a giant star in another galaxy blew its top. But that was just a prelude to the main act. A couple of years later, it blew itself to bits -- perhaps giving birth to a black hole.
The star is known as Supernova 2006jc. It was about 77 million light-years away, in the constellation Lynx. That means the fireworks actually took place 77 million years ago, but their light just recently reached Earth.
The saga of 2006jc began in late 2004, when a Japanese amateur astronomer noticed a bright outburst in the Lynx galaxy. Astronomers first thought it was a supernova -- an explosion that can outshine an entire galaxy of normal stars.
Just two years later, though, the star produced an even brighter outburst. This time, it really was a supernova.
Astronomers are still studying the star, but the most likely scenario is this.
The star was many times larger and more massive than the Sun. An eruption from its surface layers spewed enough material into space to make several thousand planets as massive as Earth.
But the star quickly reached the point where it could no longer produce energy in its core. It may have made particles of matter and antimatter. These particles annihilated each other, driving the explosion that ripped the star apart. At the same time, the star's core collapsed -- perhaps producing a black hole.
There's a similar star in our own galaxy, just a few thousand light-years away. More about that tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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