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Supernova Birth Observed for First Time

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While peering at her computer screen four months ago, astronomer Alicia Soderberg expected to see the small glowing smudge of a month-old supernova. But what she and her colleague saw instead was a strange, extremely bright, five-minute burst of X-rays.
With that observation, they became the first astronomers to catch a star in the act of exploding.
"For years we have dreamed of seeing a star just as it was exploding, but actually finding one is a once-in-a-lifetime, event," said Soderberg, a Hubble and Carnegie Princeton Fellow at Princeton University.
The discovery, detailed in the May 22 issue of the journal Nature, will shed light on the early stages of this violent stellar death, acting as a deciphering key or "Rosetta Stone" for supernova studies, as Soderberg puts it.
And analysis of the energy emitted by the new supernova, dubbed SN 2008D, could help astronomers better understand this explosive process and the properties of the stars that lead to it.
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