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Scientists Estimate Four Dozen Supernovae Per Year in Milky Way

22 Feb 2021, 22:40 UTC
Scientists Estimate Four Dozen Supernovae Per Year in Milky Way
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IMAGE: A nova makes a dim star shine roughly 100,000 times as brightly as the sun. This image shows Nova Persei 1901 about a century after its explosion, with magenta, yellow and blue indicating radio waves, visible light and X-rays, respectively. CREDITS: X-RAY: D. TAKEI ET AL, NASA, CXC, RIKEN; OPTICAL: STSCI, NASA; RADIO: VLA/NRAO

Statistical arguments are how we understand a remarkable number of things in astronomy. Let’s face it, the sky is big, daylight and clouds happen, and we just can’t watch everything, everywhere, all of the time. Instead, we’ll observe where we can, when we can, and then we use statistics to figure out how common different things may be.

A new paper in The Astrophysical Journal with first author Kishalay De documents how a new team used the Palomar telescope to look for novae — the bright explosions of material falling onto a white dwarf from a companion star. With careful statistics, they were able to jump from the number of novae detected in their images to the number of novae taking place in our galaxy each year. By accounting for how much of the galaxy is blocked by dust and how much of the ...

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