back to article Last mystery of first recorded supernova laid to rest

NASA says it has put to rest any lingering doubts about the identity of the first recorded supernova, described in the Chinese historical work Book of the Later Han as having taken place in 185 A.D. As strongly suspected by observations made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton …


This topic is closed for new posts.
Will Godfrey
Silver badge

I know I shouldn't say this but...

Is that the same 'star' that invisible friend worshipers believe heralded his birth?

Whoops, bit of a chronology problem there.

Jesse G

be careful or some Christian will go thermonuclear on you.

Silver badge


Perhaps the big fella sneezed?

David Dawson

Wouldn't it be closer to 1 BC? ( Funky dates notwithstanding)

John Angelico

You can say it...

...but you will have created a simple error of chronology, by attempting to relate two separate and unrelated things. Have you seen someone about that cognitive dissonance problem of yours?

I am a Christian and no, I do not propose "going thermonuclear" - I will simply shake my head at the lengths some people go to in trying to discredit my beliefs.

some vaguely opinionated bloke

Maybe another celestial object instead

"Halley's appearance in 12 BC, only a few years distant from the conventionally assigned date of the birth of Jesus Christ, has led some theologians and astronomers to suggest that it might explain the biblical story of the Star of Bethlehem. "

(disclaimer: wikifact and IANAC)

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Discrediting your beliefs

Not so much 'discredit' as 'mock'... in a way that they'd never dream of doing for other religions.

(I'm totally agnostic BTW, just sick of this sort of childish hypocrisy.)

Loyal Commenter
Silver badge

@John Angelico

You are free to believe whatever you like, but please don't present your beliefs as facts.

I have nothing against Christians, but I harbour a deep dislike of those who believe the young-Earth creationism nonsense and try to prevent it as scientific fact* whilst maintaining that evolution is 'just' a theory**.

Anyway, shake your head all you like. While you're at it, feel free to put your fingers in your ears, shout, "La la la I'm not listening", and screw your eyes up really tight. Other people are perfectly capable of forming a world-view that is both internally consistent and externally consistent with observable facts without invoking invisible omnipotent beings. This does not demonstrate congitive dissonance, a quite remarkable amount of which CAN be seen amongst religious types. Resorting to the argument, "It's like that because God did it" is a perfect example.

*There is no such thing as a scientific fact, science works on the basis of forming and testing hypotheses to form a systematic understanding of the universe that is consistent with observation.

**Evolution is a theory, creationism isnt even that, as it relies on no evidence and makes no testable predictions. The fact that scientific theories can be tested, whereas faith-based belief systems cannot, makes them falsifiable. The fact that evolution hasn't been falsified by experiment, despite having been around as a scientific theory for over a century makes it a pretty strong contender for being right. The fact that religious beliefs tend to include a clause along the lines of, "Don't test the truth of this, or God will get angry" implies pretty strongly to me that they stand on shaky ground to begin with.


@Loyal Commenter

Ask the most prominent scientists about the origins of the big bang and then tell me believing in a God is any different.

While science explains the world around us it does not, nor ever has managed to disprove the origins of that which science explains, believers of science are themselves religious, with no methods to test big bang theories and prove or disprove the source of the universe your beliefs are no more valid than a Christian, or any other religious believer for that matter.

Yours and many others mockery of religion is unscientific at best and plain pathetic and hypocritical at worst, evolution is still only a theory, creationism less so, but until the indisputable evidence is in one way or the other the pro-science mob have to accept their belief in science is no different from the belief that bearded super-being made all this.



Loyal Commenter
Silver badge


Science makes no claims to explain the cause of the big bang. The evidence points towards the big bang happening, but no further. It is generally agreed that there is no way of telling what happend 'before' the big bang, and even that 'before' means anything in this context. So yes, some supernatural sky fairy could have clicked his fingers and cuased the big bang to happen, any other unprovable and made-up explanation could also be true too.

I personally have no 'belief' as to what 'caused' the universe to exist one way or another. Your argument is flawed because you conflate the idea of belief without questioning with the idea of acceptance of the evidence.

The mockery of religion by others may well be unscientific, and hypocritical. Unless you can point me to something that I have written that is either unscientific or hypocritical, I would ask you to refrain from ad-hominem attacks as it does nothing to strengthen your argument.

My objection, which is also the objection of many others, is the claim that evolution is 'just a theory'. This conflates the scientific use of the word theory (an internally consisten and testable evidence-led hypothesis) with the common usage (any old idea). This is a deliberate misrepresentation, and you know it.

Blue eyed boy

Definite chronology problem

This is over a century after the time of Augustus (he who issued the decree that all the world should be taxed) and Tiberius (in whose 15th year Jesus began His public ministry) so the answer to your question must be a definite no.

Was this supernova noted by any other contemporary people - in particular the Babylonians? This is where scholarly opinion suggests that the (unspecified number of) Wise Men came from.

(I'm too nice a guy to go thermonuclear on anybody.)

Fred Bauer

@Loyal Commenter

LC Said:

"You are free to believe whatever you like, but please don't present your beliefs as facts."

in response to:

" will have created a simple error of chronology, by attempting to relate two separate and unrelated things."

OK, I might be a bit slow, but I don't see any presentation of beliefs as facts, here. He merely stated that the "fact" of the supernova was not related to his "belief" in what happened on the vicinity of 1 AD. I don't see him saying that his beliefs are fact.

I believe mine's the one with the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in it.


Always struck by this

"Ask the most prominent scientists about the origins of the big bang and then tell me believing in a God is any different."

I've always been an athiest but do enjoy this one.

Ask a person this "Would you say a good description of the big bang could be 'Let there be light'"

I'm just throwing it out there :)

The Flying Dutchman

"If you pour gasoline on it, it will explode."

So there *is* interstellar gasoline (and oxygen too) in space.

I'm off to Alpha Centauri with my Hummer.


It Blew, then Sucked

To be accurate, the star was a white dwarf whose stellar wind blew a giant cavity in its environment, that allowed the later explosion more room to expand into. It also sucked massive amounts of matters from a companion star, so much that it ended up blowing up, fulfilling the definition of a type 1a supernova.


Anonymous Coward

White dwarfs have no stellar wind. The progenitor star might have blown the cavity, but more likely it was a companion star (Type 1a supernovae are produced by binary stars where one of the partners is a white dwarf).


Note quite.

As Rik notes here, the cavity seems to have been produced not by either the predecessor to the white dwarf or its companion star blowing away stellar material, but rather by the latter sucking up enough material in its vicinity to clear the way - a mechanism which is new to science. For more on this matter, see the article on the NASA website (


Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

While I am white and I may be vertically challenged, I doubt if I qualify as being a dwarf, however I do have a Stella (Artois) wind and blow my cavity regularly - see icon.

Destroy All Monsters
Silver badge

Loaded white dwarf bursts gut, spews it everywhere!

Why isn't Galaxy upholding the Dwarf Tossing Ban Act?

Gary Bickford

So, what's a "drawf"?

Would that be a dwarf made from tachyons? :D

This post has been deleted by its author

Graham Marsden

"White Dwarfs...

... "go thermonuclear"

Erm, so what were they doing beforehand...?

Steven Roper

What were they doing beforehand?

They were being very hot and very dense, but not being thermonuclear, since all thermonuclear activity has ceased in a white dwarf. The heat and light from a white dwarf comes entirely from the tremendous pressure its gravity exerts on the degenerate matter that comprises it. Remember, compression produces heat - in the case of a white dwarf, enough heat to make it glow for hundreds of billions of years.

Thermonuclear reactions in a white dwarf can only occur when fresh, non-degenerate matter falls onto its surface (as from a main-sequence / red-giant companion star) and is compressed by the white dwarf's gravity to the point where thermonuclear reactions can begin. When the amount of material reaches a sufficient amount that the thermonuclear activity can finally break free of the white dwarf's intense gravity, it does so - in a single brilliant burst, known as a Type 1a supernova.

BTW, regarding the plural query in the article - the correct plural of supernova is in fact "supernovae", not "supernovas".

David Dawson

If a word has been taken fully into English, then the English pluralisations are used, not the victim languages.

Eg, the correct plural form of stadium really is stadiums, except for anything historical.

Not sure if this would apply to supernova.

Loyal Commenter
Silver badge

@David Dawson

At the risk of getting drawn into a long and pointless argument about grammar, the 'correct' plural of supanova is either supernovas or supernovae, both are in common enough use to be understood.

I can think of many cases where the correct plural in English is not just the word with an 's' tacked on the end, such as bacterium -> bacteria, if you were to use the word 'bacteriums' in conversation around microbiologists, you'd most likely get the piss taken out of you pretty thoroughly. English benefits from having assimilated words from a number of other languages, many of which have retained their original plural forms - there is no 'correct' systematic way of pluralising a word that has originated in another language.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

"Nova" is a latin word, so the correct plural form (even in English) is "novae".

Loyal Commenter
Silver badge

And of course, by commenting on this thread...

I myself have fallen victim to Muphry's Law.

I should, of course, have written 'supernova', not 'supanova'.


Without getting bogged down in enymology, the correct term used in ASTROPHYSICS is supernovae.

Tom 13

That would be

'etymology'. Running away now before I screw up something.

David Dawson

@Loyal Commenter

Yes, all very true; and I too don't really have the energy for a long drawn out pluralisation debate.

That said, I put it to you that the majority (microbiologists notwithstanding) would use the word 'bacteria' as both a singular and plural; so the use of 'bacteriums' is really a moot point, given that english has 'singularised' (for want of a better word) the latin plural.


"there is no 'correct' systematic way of pluralising a word that has originated in another language."

Yes, I agree and happily concede the point.

Sam Therapy
Bronze badge

Violently explode?

Not good enough. Also, in a previous paragraph, the word should be "known", not "know".

Silly bugger.

Alan Dougherty

Anybody else noticed it looks like a square jawed emo crying?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

No, but I'll have some of whatever medication you are on.


I've always thought dwarfs suck.

Horrid little things with their beards and axes.

Why, yes, that is my hooded cloak with the AD&D Players Manual in the pocket.

This post has been deleted by its author


Baruk Khazâd!

The First Dave


No, dwarfs is a miss-spelling, while Dwarves is the correct plural.

Pascal Monett
Silver badge

Normally, it should be dwerrows ...

This post has been deleted by its author

This post has been deleted by its author

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Yes, and the other major type is II

"nearby" galaxy M101 is currently (well, millions of years ago, but now in out frame of reference) host to a type Ia supernova. It was visible in binoculars just a few weeks ago, but now is borderline in my 8" scope.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

monty python

Any one else reminded of the restaurant sketch with Mr Creosote? Or am I just showing my warped mind?

Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

I prefer the song from the end of the film

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving

And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,

That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,

A sun that is the source of all our power.

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see

Are moving at a million miles a day

In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,

Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.


Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.

It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.

It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,

But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.

We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.

We go 'round every two hundred million years,

And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions

In this amazing and expanding universe.


The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding

In all of the directions it can whizz

As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,

Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.

So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,

How amazingly unlikely is your birth,

And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space.

'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth (and on this forum - sometimes). :-P

Graham Bartlett

@Loyal Commenter

"I myself have fallen victim to Muphry's Law."

Wow, a Murphy's Law reference which itself suffers from Murphy's Law. Slef-reeferential...

Loyal Commenter
Silver badge

Not Murphy's Law

Muphry's Law:



If you pour gasoline on a white dwarf will it really explode?


Will "it" explode -

Surely "will he explode". Dwarves are people too.

I must try it, though...

Isendel Steel


no it'll just get soggy and unreadable - will probably light quicker though.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018