Astronomers at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile discovered 30 years ago one of the biggest exploding stars ever registered, as it released the amount of energy from over 100 million suns combined. The blast, named Supernova 1987a, was so powerful that it lasted months after the discovery on February 24, 1987, and it represented the biggest supernova recorded in more than 400 years of history.

Ever since the discovery of the phenomenon, the light show has fascinated astronomers all over the world. This former star is located in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, as its closeness to Earth is helping scientists on conducting extensive studies to the stages before, during, and after the giant blast.

Supernova 1987a was so powerful that it lasted months after the discovery on February 24, 1987. Image credit: ALMA / ESO / NAOJ / NRAO / Alexandra Angelich, NRAO / AUI / NSF / Sci News

Before Supernova 1987a, the other similar phenomenon registered was the 1604a explosion that happened in the Milky Way itself. Since that opportunity, no other supernova has been recorded for being that close to Earth, as it represents great news to the space investigation centers around the globe.

30th-anniversary commemoration

New images, time-lapse movies, and a data-based animation of the Supernova 1987a will be presented for the entire public to honor the birthday of the discovery. All the data used to produce the material was taken from the Salvatore Orlando at INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo, Italy, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, as well as the International Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Now, astronomers and public, in general, will be able to enjoy the Supernova 1987a as never before.

In the case of the Hubble, the telescope has been observing the developments presented in the explosion since its discovery 30 years ago, as it has gathered a rich body of images. On the other hand, the Chandra observatory has been collecting data since its inauguration in 1999, and ALMA, a powerful array composed of 66 antennas, has also been gathering high-resolution millimeter and submillimeter data on SN 1987A since its official launch.

According to Robert Kirshner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, California, “the 30 years’ worth of observations of SN 1987A are important because they provide insight into the last stages of stellar evolution.” This is the first time in history that investigation centers have collected so many detailed information of a Supernova.

About the 1987a’s current state, recent information has proved that it is currently undergoing through a threshold. Donna Weaver from the specialized website, explains that everything beyond the star is unknown for the astronomers working in the investigation.

“The supernova shock wave is moving beyond the dense ring of gas produced late in the life of the pre-supernova star when a fast outflow or wind from the star collided with a slower wind generated in an earlier red giant phase of the star’s evolution,” Weaver said about the current state of the Supernova 1987a, which turned 30 years discovered this Friday.

Currently, researchers are looking for any signs that could reveal a black hole or a neutron star left behind by the blast. They have observed the presence of a compact object while the center of the star collapsed, as the information gathered until the date has not been able to reveal what exactly is this object.