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Oldest evidence of supernova found in 5,000-year-old rock art spotted in Kashmir

Scientists are of the view that the rock that shows two bright objects in the sky and a hunting scene is the oldest record of a supernova and likely the oldest sky chart ever drawn.

Edited by: India TV News Desk, New Delhi [ Updated: January 10, 2018 15:48 IST ]
Image for representative purposes only
Image for representative purposes only

Researchers have recently unearthed the oldest depiction of a supernova on a 5,000-year-old rock art in Kashmir's Burzahama region, reports said.

The rock carving - known to be the earliest form of human expression - is on an irregular stone slab with a size of about 48 cm by 27 cm.

Scientists are of the view that the rock that shows two bright objects in the sky and a hunting scene is the oldest record of a supernova and likely the oldest sky chart ever drawn. There is another animal to the left of the hunter drawn above the hunter's spear, representing a hunting scene. The two objects are a pair of bright stars at the local zenith at the beginning of the hunting season.

However, some believe that the rock dates back to 2100 BC and was reused for important construction. A study regarding this has also been published in the Indian Journal of History of Science.

The two objects cannot be Sun and Moon since, with such proximity to the Sun, the Moon would be in a partial phase around the new and hence not very bright, said researchers led by Hrishikesh Joglekar from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai.

"The stone drawing is a complete sky chart of the night on which the Supernova was first observed by unknown observers around 4,500 BC," Joglekar said in a statement.

The researchers had ruled out the possibility that the observed object is a star pair or comets, halos and terrestrial events.

They investigated the possibility that the rock drawing is the record of the supernova HB9 and found that only one Supernova remnant HB9 meets all the criteria and it exploded around 4500 BC with a brightness comparable to the brightness of the Moon.

"We suggest that the partially drawn object is HB9 since it would be irregular and that the second bright object is Moon since the apparent magnitude of HB9 is closer to that of the Moon," Joglekar said.

"This is not a terrestrial hunting scene but is actually a sky-map giving location of prominent constellations and the Moon on the day the supernova was first observed," he noted.

A supernova is a transient astronomical event that occurs during the last stellar evolutionary stages of a massive star's life, whose dramatic and catastrophic destruction is marked by one final titanic explosion.

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