Science: Death of a Star

When Caltech Astronomer Charles Kowal first examined the photographic plate that he had exposed atop Mount Palomar last month, he was openly skeptical. At the edge of the small, irregular galaxy that he was studying in the constellation Centaurus, he saw a large burst of light brighter than the entire galaxy itself that had not been there before. Had a stray asteroid wandered into the telescope's field of view? Closer inspection quickly revealed that the light came not from a nearby asteroid, but from a far more awesome heavenly phenomenon: a supernova, the explosive death of a giant star.

No supernova has...

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