Writing Prompts: SN1987A

Credit: NASA, ESA, K. France (University of Colorado, Boulder), and P. Challis and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

SN 1987A is one of the most spectacular celestial events of the past forty years. Indeed, it is the closest supernova to earth since Kepler’s Supernova in 1604. It’s relative proximity and luminosity led SN 1987A to become one of the most intensively studied celestial objects.

What makes SN 1987A (I can’t help but wonder if it deserves a catchier name) so fascinating is that it defied expectations. No one believed that the progenitor star – with the even catchier name of Sanduleak -69 202 – was capable of going supernova. The star was classified as a blue supergiant, and under existing theories, blue supergiants weren’t meant to go boom. Only Sanduleak -69 202 did.

In doing so, the star did something that makes science and nature so wonderful: it forced people to rethink their expectations. The natural world holds so many as yet unknown marvels, and I salute those who seek them out. SN 1987A is a vivid, beautiful example of that.

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