As early as September 2006, a star in the distant constellation of Enceladus exploded. When a star explodes, it is 50 billion times brighter than the sun. Over a period of 70 days, the unusually bright explosion became brighter and brighter until it was 10 times brighter than the galaxy in which it was located.
What puzzled scientists about the explosion was that it was hundreds of times more powerful than a typical supernova. It is very bright and is by far the brightest stellar explosion ever detected. For more than a decade, scientists have been confused about what makes the explosion so bright. More than a decade later, scientists think they have the answer.
About a year after the explosion peaked, scientists reanalyzed the radiation lines from the explosion. The team found a large number of iron atoms, which they believe were the result of supernova interactions with a pre-existing layer of stellar matter that spewed out hundreds of years before supernovae formed.
As for the source of these substances, one theory is that the explosion, known as SN2006GY, started not with one star, but from two stars. The team says one candidate suggests that a binary ancestor system, in which a white dwarf star rotates into a giant or oversized companion. Such collisions are rare.
When such a collision does occur, scientists say, as the two cores slowly merge, they wrap around the surrounding area with gas-like stellar material. If the merger had occurred 10 to 200 years before the supernova was discovered, the star might have released a lingering gas-like envelope. When a star finally enters a supernova state, a gas-filled envelope magnifies the brightness to the level seen in the explosion.