A 5000 year old Indian rock painting pegged as the oldest sketch of a supernova

In a bold claim, three Indian astrophysicists associated with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, have published a paper [PDF] which analyses possibly the oldest rock carving which records a supernova. This carving was incidentally discovered in the form of a rock carving in Kashmir’s Burzahama region.

Supernova is basically a massive explosion in a massive star which is on the verge of dying. Dubbed as the biggest explosion ever to be seen by the humans, it usually takes place in big stars, at-least about five times the size of our sun. This phenomenon occurs when the outward force of the gravity exerted on the star overpowers the opposing force of heat and pressure from the star’s core, which is generated via massive nuclear reactions. This imbalance occurs when the star is at the last stages of its life and doesn’t have enough fuel to generate enough heat and pressure:

A balanced star which turns into a supernova when Gravity > Heat + Pressure ( Image via NASA)

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Usually a supernova results in the residual product of a dense core and a nebula. In case of very big stars these supernova turn into black holes, the densest objects in the universe, whose escape velocity is more than the speed of light.

This Superonova, as per the trio of Indian scientists named Hrishikesh Joglekar, M N Vahia and Aniket Sule might have been recorded on that rock carving which is believed to date back to a range of 6000 to 2000 BC:

Image via IGNCA

This image as per the paper published, depict two extremely bright celestial objects. These as per the logic provided, can’t both be the sun and the moon as both can’t be correspondingly as bright owing to the moon being in a partial phase with the sun, thereby making it less bright.

With reference to other European paintings of a similar era, the scientists argue, that it may not be a star or planet pair. Also, the hunting activity depicted in the painting might mean that the carving was made in a day-time setting when either stars or planets aren’t visible. Such bright celestial objects can’t be comets or halos, considering their circular nature and same horizontal shape.

The scientists thus conclude that the object depicted might be a supernova. On further investigation about ancient supernovas occurring during that period, the scientists have zeroed down to the possibly of it being the supernova HB9 which exploded at around 4500 BC.

Since a single rock painting might not be enough evidence to prove the findings, the the team of Astrophysicist Mayank Vahia is now hoping that more rock art emerges from the region which helps solidify the claim.


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