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Thread: Would it be fair to say that no human being has ever seen a star explode?

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    Would it be fair to say that no human being has ever seen a star explode?

    I know that seems bonkers but... we've seen plenty of gigantic explosions, which, based on pretty durn solid evidence, we conclude are exploding stars, but no one has ever seen a star, which then exploded. Is that the case?
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

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    You mean, aided/unaided eye in real time?

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I know that seems bonkers but... we've seen plenty of gigantic explosions, which, based on pretty durn solid evidence, we conclude are exploding stars, but no one has ever seen a star, which then exploded. Is that the case?
    SN 1987A was found retroactively on photographic plates as a blue supergiant in the LMG.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_1987A#Progenitor
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    SN 1987A was found retroactively on photographic plates as a blue supergiant in the LMG.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_1987A#Progenitor
    Some other more recent Supernovae in relatively nearby galaxies have also happened in places where there was a star before the explosion, and not a star several years later.
    Forming opinions as we speak

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    Assuming we are talking about an actual human looking at the star at the moment it explodes (rather than working retrospectively through telescopic photographs), I think we can't rule out the possibility that a member of Homo sapiens was looking directly at the Geminga precursor when it went supernova 300,000 years ago. The spherical cow suggests to me that the precursor would have been visible to the naked eye, especially in prehistoric African skies.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I know that seems bonkers but... we've seen plenty of gigantic explosions, which, based on pretty durn solid evidence, we conclude are exploding stars, but no one has ever seen a star, which then exploded. Is that the case?
    I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re asking, but what about SN 1054? We have no way of knowing if someone was watching it just when it started brightening, but it is certainly possible somebody was.

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    Would it have been a naked eye star?
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Would it have been a naked eye star?
    No historical supernova has ever been a naked-eye star, which could change if Betelgeuse blows up. The precursor stars have been seen on long-duration photographic plates. The Geminga precursor mentioned by Grant would be an exception, but we just don't know.
    Do good work. —Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    No historical supernova has ever been a naked-eye star, which could change if Betelgeuse blows up.
    What about the one in 1006?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    What about the one in 1006?
    Even farther than the one in 1054.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Even farther than the one in 1054.
    But both of them were visible to the naked eye, correct? The one in 1054 was like magnitude -3, and the one in 1006 was like -7, so it might have even been visible in the daytime I think.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Even farther than the one in 1054.
    But both of them were visible to the naked eye, correct? The one in 1054 was like magnitude -3, and the one in 1006 was like -7, so it might have even been visible in the daytime I think.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    But both of them were visible to the naked eye, correct? The one in 1054 was like magnitude -3, and the one in 1006 was like -7, so it might have even been visible in the daytime I think.
    I think the question is centered on being able to see the progenitor star prior to the nova. But I’ve been wrong before.

    From my brief reading the 1054 supernova that resulted in the Crab Nebula was about 6,500 LY distant. It might have just been been visible to the unaided eye prior to exploding if it was massive enough and had enough luminosity. Today the progenitor is a neutron star.

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    I think the question is centered on being able to see the progenitor star prior to the nova. But I’ve been wrong before.
    Right. I should have gone back and read the OP carefully.
    As above, so below

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    The description of 1054 supernova calls it a new star, not an existing star. Nor was it catalogued in Taurus by Claudius Ptolemaios. What is the magnitude limit evidenced by lack of catalogues in Taurus?
    Eta Carinae was a supernova impostor, and at about +1,4 before erupting in December 1837. In 17th century, it had been about +3,3, and got a Bayer name.
    The 1006 supernova was Type I, so brighter when bursting than the 1054 one, but dimmer before burst.
    How about the Vela supernova?

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    I think the question is centered on being able to see the progenitor star prior to the nova.
    In that case, SN1987A fits. Unless it must be visible to the naked eye.

    the progenitor star was tentatively identified as Sanduleak −69 202 (Sk -69 202), a blue supergiant.[7] After the supernova faded, that identification was definitely confirmed by Sk −69 202 having disappeared.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_1987A

    But SN 2008D is even better:

    The explosion of the supernova precursor star, in the spiral galaxyNGC 2770 (88 million light years away (27 Mpc),[1] was detected on January 9, 2008, by Carnegie-Princeton fellows Alicia Soderberg and Edo Berger, and Albert Kong and Tom Maccarone independently using Swift.[1] They alerted eight other orbiting and ground-based observatories to record the event. This was the first time that astronomers have ever observed a supernova as it occurred.[2][3][4]

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    Steven Seagal in the 1990s?


    (OK, I'll take the infraction for that...)

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