The supernova star Tycho famously exploded 450 years ago this month

One of the most spectacular celestial sights ever seen suddenly appeared in the northern night sky 450 years ago this month: a “new” star in the constellation Cassiopeia (the Queen). It was the brightest nova recorded in about 500 years and, to this day, remains one of only five known supernovae observed in Galaxy galaxy.

To get an idea of ​​how dazzling this object was, step outside one night this week around 8 p.m. local time and look up into the north-northeast sky at the familiar zigzag line of five bright stars that make up the “W” of Cassiopeia. Then look south-southeast at the bright planet Zeus, shining like a silver beacon, and try to imagine what it would look like if you could somehow increase its brightness eightfold. Then turn back to see Cassiopeia. Try to visualize such a dazzling object in this region of the sky and you’ll get an idea of ​​what this strange new star must have looked like to those living in the late 16th century.

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