# Have I just observed a supernova?

First of all, I'm from Syria. In Syria we have 70% of the night without electricity. So I love hanging out at this period of time in the night, looking up just as Prof. Stephen Hawking said to the sky, observing the beauty of the night sky. Tonight, when I was looking arbitrarily I saw a star. Suddenly its brightness increased gradually, and then this star released two big sparkles. They were more like distorted yellow or golden rings formed or more like waves.

I don't know how to express this phenomenon! Then those two sparkles disappeared, and the brightness of this star decreased very very fast until it just disappeared. It was the first time in my life I saw something like this! I just don't know what to say! This phenomenon lasted for a couple seconds. I was shocked as much as you can imagine. I was unable to speak, totally impressed! I just cannot express my feeling! Maybe this is not a supernova! But what is that? Why did this star do that?

• If there were any "sparkles" or any such detail, it was not a supernova. It is 100% impossible to see any details from a supernova. The only, ONLY thing you could see is an increase in brightness, that's all. But the image of a supernova (or any star) is always a simple dot. What you saw was something much, much closer. – Florin Andrei Feb 3 '17 at 19:29
• Sounds like a Satellite flare: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_flare Heaven's above: heavens-above.com keeps track, and predicts the major flares, but there's a lot of shiny hardware circling the earth these days. I remember seeing Telstar 1 in 1962. Such events were rare back then. These days, you can go out about any cloudless night and see at least a satellite an hour. --- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telstar – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 4 '17 at 0:34
• I agree with the above comment. Satellite flare sounds like the most likely candidate. Use this guide m.wikihow.com/Find-an-Iridium-Flare and try and spot another one :) – maguirenumber6 Feb 4 '17 at 12:01
• No I saw a YouTube video about satellite flare, it wasn't even close to what I saw. What I saw is a star which is constant 'not moving' small golden dot suddenly its brightness increased gradually and then one wave released from this dot it was also golden, and then followed immediately by the second wave, finally the brightness decreased gradually until this dot disappeared. – user3779823 Feb 4 '17 at 17:16
• @WayfaringStranger: Telstar is still up, magnitude dimmer than 9.0. Sure you aren't thinking of Echo 1 or 2? I saw those...back then... – DJohnM Feb 5 '17 at 20:54

The odds of a supernova being visible to the naked eye is slim. Adams et al. (2013) estimated that there is a 20% chance that we will be able to see such a supernova within the next 50 years. That should give you an idea of how unlikely this is.

The vast majority of supernovae that have been discovered lately have magnitudes ranging from +20 to +16 (check out this page, updated daily). The naked eye can see objects of magnitude +6 or less, meaning that a supernova of magnitude 16 is $10^{10}$ times fainter. Powerful telescopes are needed to observe these events.

Supernovae also aren't that quick. They fade over days or weeks or months or even years. You would not see a bright, quick flash of light. I don't want to say that it's impossible . . . but it's impossible.

If this was a supernova, it's even more unlikely that you could have seen such detail. When I say that a supernova is visible to the naked eye, that just means that you can see the light from it. It doesn't mean that the structure of any gas or dust being expelled can be observed. To make out that level of detail, it would need to be quite close to Earth - and so it would definitely have been observed by astronomers and amateur stargazers in quite a few places.

So no, I don't think this was a supernova. I have no idea what you saw, but it was not what you think it is.

• Maybe they saw a fireball heading in their direction so the trail was along their line of site. That seems to fit pretty well with their description. – zephyr Feb 3 '17 at 21:32
• @zephyr It could be. Fragmentation during atmospheric reentry should look something like that. I'm not going to speculate without any more information, though; all I can conclude is that it wasn't a supernova. – HDE 226868 Feb 3 '17 at 21:33
• Thank you HDE for your professional explanation. I agree with you maybe it is really unlikely that I saw a supernova, but I didn't see a fireball either. I'm sure that what I saw was a star the fireball must has a movement at least. What I saw was a constant small dot released two sparkles or actually waves it's more like wave. The brightness increased gradually then one wave after couple seconds the the second wave. Then the brightness decreased gradually and finally the dot disappeared completely – user3779823 Feb 4 '17 at 17:25
• @user3779823 It absolutely could not have been a star. Stars are much too far away for you to see that level of detail. I'm almost certain what you saw was a terrestrial phenomenon - maybe an artificial, man-made explosion. – HDE 226868 Feb 5 '17 at 15:07
• Just to be explicit on this: one reason we know it was not a star is that what is described would require faster than light speed travel since stars are at least a few light years away. To light up the sky one degree away from a star would take at least a week. – eshaya Feb 6 '17 at 17:04