Last week’s Universe Puzzle was fun to do wasn’t it?
Well, this week’s is number ten (how time flies), which is a good time to get some feedback.
Do you enjoy these puzzles? What do you particularly like? Dislike? Would like to see changed? Would like to see more of? Let me know please! Either in the comments below, or drop me an email.
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Once again, this week’s puzzle requires you to cudgel your brains a bit and do some lateral thinking (five minutes spent googling likely won’t be enough). But, as with all Universe Puzzles, this is a puzzle on a “Universal” topic – astronomy and astronomers; space, satellites, missions, and astronauts; planets, moons, telescopes, and so on.
What is brightest pre-telescopic nova?
As in: a nova before telescopes were used to observe the heavens.
UPDATE: Answer has been posted below.
This puzzle was designed to really cudgel your brains!
As several of you noted, the term ‘nova’ has had different meanings through the ages; specifically, it wasn’t until the 20th century that ‘novae’ were distinguished from ‘supernovae’. So in trying to solve the puzzle, do you look for historical ‘novae’ but not ‘supernovae’? Or both?
Then there’s the fact that what might have been called a ‘nova’ in the writings of someone in Europe (writing in a language close to, or derived from, Latin) may have been called something quite different by someone writing in China, or in Arabic … even though they were describing the exact same ‘new star’ in the sky. But then not every ‘guest star’ (a translation of a Chinese term) was a nova.
There’s more: I didn’t say it had to be nova that was recorded; there has been some success these last few years in finding light echos of ancient supernovae and extrapolating back. Perhaps someone has done this and someone determined that there would have been a particularly bright nova in 1234 (say), but because it was near the south celestial pole, it was highly unlikely to have been recorded by anyone (in a form that we could understand today) – no, this is highly unlikely, but you get the point.
Getting a little more imaginative: some GRBs are visible to the unaided eye. However, as they are visible for just a few seconds, tops, they’d likely not be recorded.
And so on.
Now the answer that I had in mind, taking all the above (and more; SGRs, Cataclysmic Variables, Dwarf Novae, Recurrent Novae, …) in account was SN1006, which is the historical (super)nova that is both reliable and has the highest estimated peak brightness.
Hon. Salacious B. Crumb , congratulations! You get an extra prize for looking into the known SNR (supernova remnants) to see if any had an estimated peak brightness greater than that of SN1006.
And of course “there’s no way to know” is, perhaps, the best answer of all!
Check back next week for another Universe Puzzle!