Recently, a team of scientists from India has discovered some ancient rock art that might depict the first image of a supernova and its surroundings. They found it in an ancient dwelling place, buried deep inside one of its walls. If the dating is correct, 3,600 BC, this might be the oldest-known depiction of this cosmic event. According to reports, when you look at it for the first time, it appears to show some hunters and animals under a sky that has two bright and sun-like objects.
This is why astrophysicist Mayank Vahia and her team have come up with the theory that the art depicts a supernova. This is a star that explodes usually hundreds and even thousands of light-years away. It’s interesting that even after it explodes and fades, the former supernova continues to emanate powerful X-rays. Sometimes, even for hundreds and thousands of years after. So, after finding out that the place where the rock was found dated from 2,100 BC, Vahia tried to find a connection with a supernova. And she did.
The first depiction of a supernova
— artnet (@artnet) January 8, 2018
Using data from astronomers, he managed to find one supernova from that period, bright enough to have been seen from Earth. Its name was HB9 and made its appearance around 3,600 BC. Also, it’s interesting that knowing the location of the supernova and its surrounding stars, Vahia managed to discover that the rest of the scene wasn’t a hunting one. Those are the constellations that were near the supernova.
This discovery completely changed the understanding of the painting. It was never a hunting scene, but one of the earliest star charts. Vahia explained that everything fits so well that it’s impossible for it to be a coincidence. The hunters are actually Orion. The middle stag is Taurus, the hunter on the right is Cetus, and the animal on the right could vey well be Pegasus or Andromeda. Also, what they initially thought was a spear might very well be an arc of stars.
Image source: wikimedia