Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ancient rock art may depict exploding star

Ancient rock art may depict exploding star. I found this article today by Ker Than at CNN.com. It deals with some Native American art which may be a record of a supernova that was visible from Earth in 1006. Than wrote, "A rock carving discovered in Arizona might depict an ancient star explosion seen by Native Americans a thousand years ago, scientists announced today."

What caught my attention was this. Than wrote, "Although nearly invisible today, the supernova of 1006, or SN 1006, was perhaps the brightest stellar event ever to occur in recorded human history. At its peak, the supernova was about the quarter the brightness of the moon, so radiant that people could have read by its light at midnight, scientists say."

In the early eleventh century, people all over the world saw this very visible supernova in the sky for a period of two years. Chinese, European, and African astronomers all have left accounts of the supernova. I am sure that it left many trying to find a reason for the new star. Wikipedia reports that Chinese astrologer Chou K'o-ming interpreted for the emperor that the star was actually an "auspicious star."

There have been no observed supernovas in the Milky Way Galaxy since 1604. That was the last time the average resident of Earth without a telescope would have been able to detect a supernova in the sky. Although people today are more knowledgeable about astronomy, I still bet many would read evil omens into the appearance of a supernova star in the night sky. Despite this, I would not mind seeing one. It would be exciting and could even help connect us in a small way with the people who witnessed the 1006 supernova.

The art above is by Tunç Tezel. It shows how he envisioned the supernova looked in the night sky over Turkey. Unlike most images I use at this site, this one is not in the public domain. However, I am linking the picture directly from a US federal government site which does have permission to use it.

1 comment:

Jennie W said...

I've heard that! I know they've dated various events with astronomical events. Pretty cool...makes me able to communicate with my father, who is all into astronomy rather than history!