In an atypical study, an international team of astronomers, led by the North-western University, United States, has captured the image of a dying star for the first time in the history of astrophysics. The spectacular natural phenomenon is called Supernovae in which a star reaches its last stage of life and collapses to give birth to a remnant or compact object. The new-born object can be one of the three bodies - white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes. Meanwhile, the unusual burst into the northern sky in June 2018 raised significant questions with scientists debating whether it is a black hole or a neutron star. However, Supernovae are ‘transient events’ and not permanent bodies.
In order to capture the celestial outburst, scientists used NASA’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System telescope and nicknamed it "the Cow". However, the phenomenon is officially known as Supernovae (SN) 2018cow or AT2018cow and took place inside or near a star-forming galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. AT stands for the ATLAS telescopes, and the word ‘cow’ is coincidental, stemming from the alphabetical naming convention for supernovae.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Cow produces a sudden explosion of light at least 10 times brighter than a typical Supernovae, and then it faded over the next few months. While a typical Supernovae start to brighten gradually, AT2018cow became unnaturally bright almost overnight.
Stephen Smartt, an astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast first discovered AT2018cow and sent out an alert through Astronomer’s Telegram in no time. While most of the astrophysicists were excited about the rare astronomical phenomenon others claimed it to be a black hole that was ripping a star apart.