One of the best parts of living in the 21st century is that we have a reasonable explanation for almost anything. But when something new shows up on our radars, we try as best we can to crack it open and understand how it works. We see a star, for example, we use our tools and available theories to classify it and thus broaden our perception of this big bubble that we call the Universe. So imagine if you were sitting in a cave one starry night in 3600 BC and you saw something unexplainable happen in the sky. No tools, no gadget, just a rock and the wall in front of you. Of course, you’d try and capture the moment. And apparently, something similar might have happened 5 thousand years ago, if a recent find is to be believed.
An astrophysicist by the name of Mayank Vahia and his colleagues from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research might have found evidence of the oldest depiction of a supernova yet. The scientists found a rock painting in what is now a part of Kashmir in Northern India, in which a number of figures of animals and humans are drawn underneath two bright objects in the sky.
Vahia and his team excluded the possibility of two Suns or of the sun and the moon being depicted at the same time. They, instead believe that one of the objects is a full Moon while the other round circle would have been a supernova that might have occurred near our Solar System.
Researchers claim that an explosion at such proximity would have been as visible during night time as the moon itself. The team wanted to date the rock in order to find the potential supernova that may have occurred back then. Vahia and his colleagues tried to establish when the first settlers arrived in the area where the rock was found. In addition, they also tried to find every stellar explosion visible around 4100 BC and 2100 BC.
They eventually settled for a supernova dubbed HB9 which occurred around 3600 BC. According to the study, this may be the oldest depiction of a supernova to date. The details of the discovery have been published in the Indian Journal of History of Science.
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