A flame that burns twice as hard burns half as long. So when a distant star shines five billion times brighter than our sun, you know it is not long for this world. NASA̵7;s Hubble Telescope began filming a time delay of the SN 2018gv supernova 2018, less than a year before it crashed into the airwaves.
Supernovae are dying stars that, when they reach critical mass, become hot enough to ignite a sustained thermonuclear process – much like a nuclear bomb or a punctured lithium-ion battery. SN 2018gv supernova started as a white dwarf and accelerated towards its critical mass when it accumulated material from a companion.
But interestingly enough, the SN 2018gv supernova did not break any records for brightness. This is because supernovae of this type always reach the same brightness before falling apart. Astronomers can even calculate the distance between cosmic bodies by comparing the “observable” brightness of a supernova with its true standard brightness. A nice party trick, if you ask me.
NASA’s SN 2018gv timelapse is available on YouTube, but it’s only 30 seconds long. Now that the SN 2018gv supernova is no longer … “super”, astronomers can continue to observe the region to study how supernovae transition to the nebula (which is a cloud of dust left behind after a massive cosmic explosion).