Every year astronomers see hundreds of supernovae erupt in other galaxies, but from such great distances these stellar explosions look only like bright dots. Researchers therefore prize the few supernovae that past observers witnessed in the Milky Way, where telescopes can scrutinize the wreckage. Since the year A.D. 1000, skywatchers have seen five of our galaxy's stars die in brilliant explosions. Now a new distance determination to the most mysterious of these is yielding new insight into its nature.
All five stars blew up thousands of light-years away, so their light took many millennia to reach us. But … Read more