Kepler's Supernova Remnant | The New Star 1604 AD





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Published on Feb 24, 2010

Many people witnessed the bright "new star" that appeared in October 1604. Kepler was so fascinated that he watched the star for a year, making detailed notes about the bright object in a logbook. While working on the laws of planetary motion for which he is well known, Kepler wrote a book called "De Stella Nova" ("The New Star"), in which he describes the bright object.

Initially, the Kepler supernova brightened and surpassed Jupiter in brilliance within a few days -- which was fortunate since the telescope would not be invented for another five years. It was still about as bright as Jupiter when it became invisible in twilight of November, but continued to visible in the night sky until March 1606. This meant skywatchers had naked-eye visibility of the supernova for some 18 months. From Kepler's observations, astronomers have suspected that the supernova of 1604 was a Type Ia supernova. These events are thought to be caused when a white dwarf collapses because it has pulled too much material from a nearby companion star onto itself.

Fast Facts for Kepler's Supernova Remnant:
Date: 1604 AD
Historical Observers: European, Chinese, Korean
Constellation: Ophiuchus
Duration of Visibility: 18 months
Remnant: Kepler SNR
Distance Estimate: 13,000 light years
Type: Thermonuclear explosion of white dwarf?
Coordinates: (J2000) RA 17h 30m 40.80s | Dec -21° 29' 11.00"
Also Known As: SN 1604, G004.5+06.8, V 843 Ophiuchi

The supernova explosion that created this object was witnessed on Earth about 400 ago years by many skywatchers, including the astronomer Johannes Kepler. This object, which now bears Kepler's name, is the remains of a massive star's demise. Visible-light from Hubble reveals where the supernova shock wave is slamming into the densest regions of surrounding gas. Spitzer shows microscopic dust particles that have been heated by the supernova shock wave. The X-ray data from Chandra show regions of very hot gas as well as extremely high-energy particles. The remnant of Kepler's supernova is possibly the last supernova seen to explode in our Galaxy. It is located about 13,000 light years from Earth.


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