Tycho's supernova

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Tycho's supernova
Observational Data
Designation SN 1572
G 120.1+1.4
Right ascension 00h 25m 18s[1]
Declination +64° 09′[1]
Constellation Cassiopeia
Type of object Supernova remnant
Dimensions 3.7 arcminutes[1]
Magnitude Apparent Mag: -4 (peak)[1]
Distance from Earth 3,500 ly[2]

Tycho's Supernova (SN 1572, B Cassiopeiae) was a supernova that occurred in the constellation of Cassiopeia.[3] Occurring in 1572, it was one of the earliest supernovae recorded in the Milky Way. It is named after Tycho Brahe who noticed a bright star where there had been none previously on the night sky.[1] It reached a peak magnitude of -4, making it a similar brightness to the planet Venus.


The supernova is named after Tycho Brahe who observed a star that he did not recognise near the zenith while walking home on November 11, 1572.[4] However he was not the first person to see the supernova; some claim to have seen it in August but W. Schuler saw it a week earlier than Tycho on November 5, 1572.[1] Initially it was the same brightness as Jupiter but quickly reached the same brightness as Venus, and could be observed during the day for around 2 weeks. It began to fade at the end of November and also became redder. After 16 months was no longer visible to the naked eye after March 1574.[1]

Tycho's observation of the supernova ultimately lead to his life long interest in astronomy. He performed precise measurements to demonstrate that it was not a nearby object such as a comet but significantly further away, comparable to the distances of stars.[3] Much later in the 1960s, extraordinarily faint nebulosity was discovered in the position Tycho recorded the supernova as being.[1] This was taken to be the remnant of the supernova. No stellar remnant has been seen. In 2008 it was shown to be a Type Ia supernova.

Properties and Structure

The nebula is around 3,500 light years away and is 3.7 arcminutes across.[2] The nebula contains a radio source catalogued as 3C 10 and also an x-ray source.[1] The spectacular image on the right is a false color image of the nebula in x-rays and was taken by the Chandra Space telescope. The gas of the nebula is expanding extremely rapidly at some 9,000 km/s.[1] This is much faster than other nebulae such as the Crab Nebula which is expanding at only 1,000 km/s. This expansion is clear in images taken over a period of 15 years by Chandra.[5] Infrared images have shown the shockwave produced by the supernova has heated dust.[2]