Astrophysics: 200 Trillion Trillion H-Bombs

Nature's most catastrophic events are supernovae—rare stars that burst with a brilliance 100 million times more luminous than the sun, releasing the equivalent of 200 trillion trillion 100-megaton hydrogen bombs. Swiss Astronomer Paul Wild has just added a new one to the stellar log—the first supernova seen from the earth in the unnamed galaxy N.G.C. 4189 in the constellation Virgo.

Since supernovae result from stars already shining for millions of years, the Latin term nova (new) is rather a misnomer that stems from Tycho Brahe's 1572 naked-eye study of an exploding star in...

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