According to a piece by the CBC, NASA astronomers recently had the good fortune to capture the beginnings of a supernova — the death throes of a star — in a nearby (well, it’s 100 million light years away, but sorta near in cosmic terms…) galaxy, variously labeled NGC 2770. Supernovae are fairly rare events, occurring every 50-100 years in any given galaxy. What’s special about this star is that an orbital x-ray telescope on a satellite, one of NASA’s many toys, happened to catch it at the point of going nova.

Chances of an observation like this happening by accident: astronomical…

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10 Responses to “Supernova”

  1. leafless Says:

    The power of today’s technology and one of the many mysteries of the universe finally meet. Makes for a wonderful viewing experience.

  2. The Necromancer Says:

    It’s quite astounding. Here’s another piece from the New York Times that mentions the role of the supernova in the formation of heavier elements. Heavier elements essential to the function of living things…

  3. Shefaly Says:

    Necromancer: Sorry to be pedantic but did you mean chances are inverse of astronomical? If they truly were astronomical, it would not be so newsworthy, no? :-)

  4. The Necromancer Says:

    Um, you’ve confused me. But I forgive you for being pedantic. ;)

  5. Shefaly Says:

    Uh-huh… You said the chances of such an observation being made by chance are astronomical when in reality, the odds are astronomically AGAINST such an observation being made by chance.

    So the pedant thinks you probably meant ‘odds’ but said ‘chances’. ;-)

  6. The Necromancer Says:

    Who is on first again, and what are his odds of making it to second? And, furthermore, if a star in a distant galaxy goes nova at that instant, do his chances improve?

    See, now ya really lost me. ;)

  7. Michael Says:

    This seems to be based on a distinction between “odds” and “chance.” Our friend the necromancer means the ordinary or customary usage. For example, if you notice definitions #1 below, they are similar.

    By the way, who is on first, what is on second, and Idano’s on third. What is the guy on second base.


    “chance n
    1. the degree of probability that something will happen (often used in the plural)
    2. an opportunity or a set of circumstances that makes it possible for something to happen
    3. the supposed force that makes things happen in a particular way without any apparent cause
    4. in baseball, an opportunity to field a ball and make a putout or assist
    5. a ticket in a raffle or lottery
    6. an unexpected event
    7. something caused by luck or fortune

    1. vt to do something knowing that it is risky
    2. vi to do something or happen without a cause or plan

    odds npl
    1. the likelihood or probability that something will occur, sometimes expressed as a ratio such as 10 to 1
    2. a ratio of probability given to people placing a bet, usually the likelihood of a specific event happening, or of a competitor, team, or animal winning
    Also called price
    3. an advantage or handicap given to a person, animal, or team in a sporting contest, to equalize the chances of winning
    4. a perceived advantage or disadvantage, especially one that one person is believed to have over another in a competition”

    Encarta┬« World English Dictionary ┬ę 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

  8. The Necromancer Says:

    Gee, Michael…And I thought Shefaly was being pedantic. ;) This actually parses out the common usages of the two words. Fairly synonymous, but odds is more “technical”, clearly.

    And, indeed, what is the guy on second base? Ah, punctuation!

  9. Shefaly Says:

    @ Michael: Thanks for ‘clarifying’ my quandary. :-)

    @ Necromancer: Either way neither the chances nor the odds of this event are astronomical; they are both, in fact, minuscule. Ergo, confusion at my end.

    Pedants rule! Although aren’t you glad not all who read are pedantic, eh? ;-)

  10. Supervolcanoes « The Necromancer Says:

    […] Last week it was supernovae, this week, supervolcanoes. Isn’t that […]

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