Kepler's Supernova

SN 1604, also known as Kepler's Supernova, Kepler's Nova or Kepler's Star, was a supernova of Type Ia[1][2] that occurred in the Milky Way, in the constellation Ophiuchus. Appearing in 1604, it is the most recent supernova in our own galaxy to have been unquestionably observed by the naked eye,[3] occurring no farther than 6 kiloparsecs or about 20,000 light-years from Earth.

SN 1604
Keplers supernova
A false-color composite (CXO/HST/Spitzer Space Telescope) image of the supernova remnant nebula from SN 1604
Other designations1ES 1727-21.4
Spectral classIa [1][2]
Date8–9 October 1604
Right ascension 17h 30m 42s
Declination−21° 29′
Galactic coordinatesG4.5+6.8
Distance20,000 light-years (6.1 kpc)
HostMilky Way
ProgenitorWhite Dwarf-Red Giant double star system
Progenitor typeType Ia supernova
Colour (B-V)Unknown
Notable featuresLatest observed supernova
in our galaxy.
Maintained naked-eye
visibility for 18 months.
Peak apparent magnitude−2.25 to −2.5
Preceded bySN 1572
Followed byCassiopeia A (unobserved, c. 1680), G1.9+0.3 (unobserved, c. 1868), SN 1885A (next observed)


Visible to the naked eye, Kepler's Star was brighter at its peak than any other star in the night sky, with an apparent magnitude of −2.5. It was visible during the day for over three weeks. Records of its sighting exist in European, Chinese, Korean and Arabic sources.[4][5]

Kepler Drawing of SN 1604
Johannes Kepler's original drawing from De Stella Nova (1606) depicting the location of the stella nova, marked with an N (8 grid squares down, 4 over from the left)

It was the second supernova to be observed in a generation (after SN 1572 seen by Tycho Brahe in Cassiopeia). No further supernovae have since been observed with certainty in the Milky Way, though many others outside our galaxy have been seen since S Andromedae in 1885. SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud was easily visible to the naked eye.

Evidence exists for two Milky Way supernovae whose signals would have reached Earth c. 1680 and 1870 — Cassiopeia A, and G1.9+0.3 respectively. There is no historical record of either having been detected in those years probably as absorption by interstellar dust made them fainter.[6]

The remnant of Kepler's supernova is considered to be one of the prototypical objects of its kind and is still an object of much study in astronomy.


Astronomers of the time (including Kepler) were concerned with observing the conjunction of Mars and Jupiter, which they saw in terms of an auspicious conjunction, linked in their minds to the Star of Bethlehem. However, cloudy weather prevented Kepler from making any celestial observations. Nevertheless, his fellow astronomers Wilhelm Fabry, Michael Maestlin and Helisaeus Roeslin were able to make observations on 9 October, but did not record the supernova.[7] The first recorded observation in Europe was by Lodovico delle Colombe in northern Italy on 9 October 1604.[8] Kepler was only able to begin his observations on 17 October while working at the imperial court in Prague for Emperor Rudolf II.[9] The supernova was subsequently named after him, even though he was not its first observer, as his observations tracked the object for an entire year. These observations were described in his book De Stella nova in pede Serpentarii ("On the new star in Ophiuchus's foot", Prague 1606).

Delle Colombe-Galileo controversy

In 1606, Delle Colombe published Discourse of Lodovico delle Colombe in which he shows that the Star Newly Appeared in October 1604 is neither a Comet nor a New Star where he defended an Aristotelian view of cosmology which was then sharply challenged by Galileo Galilei.[10]

Kepler-Roeslin controversy

In Kepler's De Stella Nova (1606), he criticised Roeslin concerning this supernova. Kepler argued that in his astrological prognostications, Roeslin had picked out just the two comets, the Great Comet of 1556 and 1580. Roeslin responded in 1609 that this was indeed what he had done. When Kepler replied later that year, he simply observed that by including a broader range of data Roeslin could have made a better argument.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Chandra X-Ray Observatory". Kepler's Supernova Remnant: A Star's Death Comes to Life. Retrieved 16 January 2006.
  2. ^ a b Reynolds, S. P.; Borkowski, K. J.; Hwang, U.; Hughes, J. P.; Badenes, C.; Laming, J. M.; Blondin, J. M. (2 October 2007). "A Deep Chandra Observation of Kepler's Supernova Remnant: A Type Ia Event with Circumstellar Interaction". The Astrophysical Journal. 668 (2): L135–L138. arXiv:0708.3858. Bibcode:2007ApJ...668L.135R. doi:10.1086/522830.
  3. ^ "Kepler's Supernova: Recently Observed Supernova". Universe for Facts. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  4. ^ Stephenson, F. Richard & Green, David A., Historical Supernovae and their Remnants, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2002, pp. 60–71.
  5. ^ Neuhäuser, Ralph; Rada, Wafiq; Kunitzsch, Paul; Neuhäuser, Dagmar L. (2016). "Arabic Reports about Supernovae 1604 and 1572 in Rawḥ al-Rūḥ by cĪsā b. Luṭf Allāh from Yemen". Journal for the History of Astronomy. 47 (4): 359–374. Bibcode:2016JHA....47..359N. doi:10.1177/0021828616669894.
  6. ^ "Chandra X-Ray Observatory". Discovery of Most Recent Supernova in Our Galaxy, May 14, 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  7. ^ Burke-Gaffney, W. (1937). "Kelper and the Star of Bethlehem" (PDF). Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 31: 417–425. Bibcode:1937JRASC..31..417B. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  8. ^ Delle Colombe L., Discorso di Lodovico Delle Colombe nel quale si dimostra che la nuova Stella apparita l’Ottobre passato 1604 nel Sagittario non è Cometa, ne stella generata, ò creata di nuovo, ne apparente: ma una di quelle che furono da principio nel cielo; e ciò esser conforme alla vera Filosofia, Teologia, e Astronomiche dimostrazioni, Firenze, Giunti, 1606.
  9. ^ "Bill Blair's Kepler's Supernova Remnant Page". Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  10. ^ delle Colombe, Lodovico (1606). Discorso di Lodovico delle Colombe (in Italian).
  11. ^ Fritz, Gerd. "Dialogical Structures in 17th Century Controversies" (PDF). Gerd fritz. Retrieved 21 January 2018.

Further reading

External links

Coordinates: Sky map 17h 30m 38.5s, −21° 28′ 48″

1134 Kepler

1134 Kepler, provisional designation 1929 SA, is a stony asteroid and eccentric Mars-crosser from the asteroid belt, approximately 4 kilometers in diameter. It was discovered on 25 September 1929, by German astronomer Max Wolf at Heidelberg Observatory in southwest Germany. It is named after Johannes Kepler.

1600s (decade)

The 1600s ran from January 1, 1600, to December 31, 1699.


1604 (MDCIV)

was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar, the 1604th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 604th year of the 2nd millennium, the 4th year of the 17th century, and the 5th year of the 1600s decade. As of the start of 1604, the Gregorian calendar was

10 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

1604 in science

The year 1604 in science and technology involved some significant events.

Baldassarre Capra

Baldassarre Capra (Milan, 1580 − Milan, 8 May 1626) was an Italian scientist who disputed Galileo Galilei's claim to priority of the discovery of Kepler's Supernova and also claimed to have invented the proportional compass, accusing Galileo of plagiarism.

The son of count Marco Aurelio Capra and Ippolita Dalla Croce, Baldassarre came from a family of the ancient nobility but somewhat reduced circumstances. His father was an amateur doctor, and in 1594 he moved to Padua with his son so that he could study medicine, astronomy and mathematics. To support them, Marco Aurelio gave fencing lessons. One of his students was Galileo himself, introduced by their mutual acquaintance Giacomo Alvise Cornaro.

De Stella Nova

De Stella Nova in Pede Serpentarii (On the New Star in the Foot of the Serpent Handler), generally known as De Stella Nova was a book written by Johannes Kepler between 1605 and 1606, when the book was published in Prague.Kepler wrote the book following the appearance of the supernova SN 1604, also known as Kepler's Supernova. This star appeared in the constellation Ophiuchus, the Greek (Ὀφιοῦχος Ophioukhos) "serpent-bearer" which is also known in Latin as Serpentarii.

The SN 1604 supernova was observable for almost a year, from October 1604 to October 1605. Observation conditions were good, particularly when it was first visible. A conjunction of Jupiter and Mars happened to be taking place near the place where the supernova appeared, meaning that astronomers happened to be looking in its direction. As a result there were many witnesses to its appearance, but Kepler's observations were particularly meticulous. The care he took not only to record his own observations but to compile the observations of other astronomers make De Stella Nova a very important record both of the supernova itself, and of the astronomy of the early 17th century.

Dialogo de Cecco di Ronchitti da Bruzene in perpuosito de la stella Nuova

Dialogo de Cecco di Ronchitti da Bruzene in perpuosito de la stella Nuova (Dialogue of Cecco di Ronchitti of Brugine concerning the New star) is the title of an early 17th-century pseudonymous pamphlet ridiculing the views of an aspiring Aristotelian philosopher, Antonio Lorenzini da Montepulciano, on the nature and properties of Kepler's Supernova, which had appeared in October 1604. The pseudonymous Dialogue was written in the coarse language of a rustic Paduan dialect, and first published in about March, 1605, in Padua. A second edition was published later the same year in Verona. A translation into standard Italian was published by Antonio Favaro in 1881, and an English translation by Stillman Drake in 1976.

Scholars agree that the pamphlet was written either by Galileo Galilei or one of his followers, Girolamo Spinelli, or by both in collaboration, but do not agree on the extent of the contribution—if any—made by each of them to its composition.

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei (Italian: [ɡaliˈlɛːo ɡaliˈlɛi]; 15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Galileo has been called the "father of observational astronomy", the "father of modern physics", the "father of the scientific method", and the "father of modern science".Galileo studied speed and velocity, gravity and free fall, the principle of relativity, inertia, projectile motion and also worked in applied science and technology, describing the properties of pendulums and "hydrostatic balances", inventing the thermoscope and various military compasses, and using the telescope for scientific observations of celestial objects. His contributions to observational astronomy include the telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the observation of the four largest satellites of Jupiter, the observation of Saturn and the analysis of sunspots.

Galileo's championing of heliocentrism and Copernicanism was controversial during his lifetime, when most subscribed to geocentric models such as the Tychonic system. He met with opposition from astronomers, who doubted heliocentrism because of the absence of an observed stellar parallax. The matter was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, which concluded that heliocentrism was "foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture". Galileo later defended his views in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), which appeared to attack Pope Urban VIII and thus alienated him and the Jesuits, who had both supported Galileo up until this point. He was tried by the Inquisition, found "vehemently suspect of heresy", and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. While under house arrest, he wrote Two New Sciences, in which he summarized work he had done some forty years earlier on the two sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials.

History of supernova observation

The known history of supernova observation goes back to 185 AD, when supernova SN 185 appeared, the oldest appearance of a supernova recorded by humankind. Several additional supernovae within the Milky Way galaxy have been recorded since that time, with SN 1604 being the most recent supernova to be observed in this galaxy.Since the development of the telescope, the field of supernova discovery has expanded to other galaxies. These occurrences provide important information on the distances of galaxies. Successful models of supernova behavior have also been developed, and the role of supernovae in the star formation process is now increasingly understood.


Kepler's may refer to:

Kepler's Books, bookstore in Menlo Park, California

Kepler's equation in orbital mechanics

Kepler's laws of planetary motion, describing the motion of planets around the Sun

Kepler's Supernova, supernova in the Milky Way

Kepler (disambiguation)

Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) was a key figure in the scientific revolution.

Kepler may also refer to:

Kepler (name), a surname and given name (including lists of people with the name)

Kepler star

Kepler star may refer to:

Kepler Object of Interest, a star observed by the Kepler spacecraft which is suspected of hosting one or more transiting planets

Kepler's Supernova, a supernova that occurred in the Milky Way, observed by the naked eye in 1604

Small or great stellated dodecahedron, geometric solids; see Kepler–Poinsot polyhedron

List of things named after Johannes Kepler

This is a list of things named after German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630).


Ophiuchus () is a large constellation straddling the celestial equator. Its name is from the Greek Ὀφιοῦχος Ophioukhos; "serpent-bearer", and it is commonly represented as a man grasping a snake (Unicode U+26CE ⛎). The serpent is represented by the constellation Serpens. Ophiuchus was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations. It was formerly referred to as Serpentarius and Anguitenens.

SN 1987A

SN 1987A was a peculiar type II supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy satellite of the Milky Way. It occurred approximately 51.4 kiloparsecs (168,000 light-years) from Earth and was the closest observed supernova since Kepler's Supernova, visible from earth in 1604. 1987A's light reached Earth on February 23, 1987, and as the first supernova discovered that year, was labeled "1987A". Its brightness peaked in May, with an apparent magnitude of about 3.

It was the first opportunity for modern astronomers to study the development of a supernova in great detail, and its observations have provided much insight into core-collapse supernovae.

SN 1987A provided the first chance to confirm by direct observation the radioactive source of the energy for visible light emissions, by detecting predicted gamma-ray line radiation from two of its abundant radioactive nuclei. This proved the radioactive nature of the long-duration post-explosion glow of supernovae.

Simon Marius

Simon Marius (Latinized from German Simon Mayr; January 20, 1573 – January 5, 1625) was a German astronomer. He was born in Gunzenhausen, near Nuremberg, but he spent most of his life in the city of Ansbach. He is most noted for making the first observations of the four largest moons of Jupiter, before Galileo himself, and his publication of his discovery led to charges of plagiarism.


A supernova ( plural: supernovae or supernovas, abbreviations: SN and SNe) is a transient astronomical event that occurs during the last stages of the life of a massive star or white dwarf, whose destruction is marked by a titanic explosion. This causes the sudden appearance of a "new" star, which then fades over several weeks or months or years.

Supernovae are more energetic than novae. In Latin, nova means "new", referring astronomically to what appears to be a temporary new bright star. Adding the prefix "super-" distinguishes supernovae from ordinary novae, which are far less luminous. The word supernova was coined by Walter Baade and Fritz Zwicky in 1931.

Only three Milky Way, naked-eye supernova events have been observed during the last thousand years, though many have been observed in other galaxies. The most recent directly observed supernova in the Milky Way was Kepler's Supernova in 1604, but the remnants of recent supernovae have also been found. Observations of supernovae in other galaxies suggest they occur in the Milky Way on average about three times every century. These supernovae would almost certainly be observable with modern astronomical telescopes.

Theoretical studies indicate that most supernovae are triggered by one of two basic mechanisms: the sudden re-ignition of nuclear fusion in a degenerate star or the sudden gravitational collapse of a massive star's core. In the first instance, a degenerate white dwarf may accumulate sufficient material from a binary companion, either through accretion or via a merger, to raise its core temperature enough to trigger runaway nuclear fusion, completely disrupting the star. In the second case, the core of a massive star may undergo sudden gravitational collapse, releasing gravitational potential energy as a supernova. While some observed supernovae are more complex than these two simplified theories, the astrophysical mechanics have been established and accepted by most astronomers for some time.

Supernovae can expel several solar masses of material at speeds up to several percent of the speed of light. This drives an expanding and fast-moving shock wave into the surrounding interstellar medium, sweeping up an expanding shell of gas and dust observed as a supernova remnant. Supernovae are a major source of elements in the interstellar medium from oxygen through to rubidium. The expanding shock waves of supernova can trigger the formation of new stars. Supernova remnants might be a major source of cosmic rays. Supernovae might produce strong gravitational waves, though, thus far, the gravitational waves detected have been from the merger of black holes and neutron stars.

Supernova Early Warning System

The SuperNova Early Warning System (SNEWS) is a network of neutrino detectors designed to give early warning to astronomers in the event of a supernova in the Milky Way, our home galaxy, or in a nearby galaxy such as the Large Magellanic Cloud or the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy.

As of October 2018, SNEWS has not issued any supernova alerts. This is unsurprising because supernovae appear to be rare: the most recent known supernova remnant in the Milky Way was around the turn of the 20th century, and the most recent supernova confirmed to have been observed was Kepler's Supernova in 1604.

Powerful bursts of electron neutrinos (νe) with typical energies of the order of 10 MeV and duration of the order of 10 seconds are produced in the core of a red giant star as it collapses on itself via the "neutronization" reaction, i.e. fusion of protons and electrons into neutrons: pe−→nνe. It is expected that the neutrinos are emitted well before the light from the supernova peaks, so in principle neutrino detectors could give advance warning to astronomers that a supernova has occurred and may soon be visible. The neutrino pulse from supernova 1987A arrived 3 hours before the associated photons – but SNEWS was not yet active and it was not recognised as a supernova event until after the photons arrived. However, SNEWS is not able to give advance warning of a type Ia supernova, as they are not expected to produce significant numbers of neutrinos. Type Ia supernovae, caused by a runaway nuclear fusion reaction in a white dwarf star, are thought to account for roughly one-third of all supernovae.There are currently seven neutrino detector members of SNEWS: Borexino, Daya Bay, KamLAND, HALO, IceCube, LVD, and Super-Kamiokande. SNEWS began operation prior to 2004, with three members (Super-Kamiokande, LVD, and SNO). The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory is no longer active as it is being upgraded to its successor program SNO+.

The detectors send reports of a possible supernova to a computer at Brookhaven National Laboratory to identify a supernova. If the SNEWS computer identifies signals from two detectors within 10 seconds, the computer will send a supernova alert to observatories around the world to study the supernova. The SNEWS mailing list is open-subscription, and the general public is allowed to sign up; however, the SNEWS collaboration encourages amateur astronomers to instead use Sky and Telescope magazine's AstroAlert service, which is linked to SNEWS.

Timeline of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and supernovae

Timeline of neutron stars, pulsars, supernovae, and white dwarfs

Note that this list is mainly about the development of knowledge, but also about some supernovae taking place. For a separate list of the latter, see the article List of supernovae. All dates refer to when the supernova was observed on Earth or would have been observed on Earth had powerful enough telescopes existed at the time.

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