A Brief History of High-Energy Astronomy: 1500 - 1599 Era

In Reverse Chronological Order

1596 The German astronomer David Fabricius discovers the variability of the star Omicron Ceti, later named Mira or the Wonderful Star, probably making it the first non-nova, non-supernova variable star to be recognized as such. In 1638, Johann Holwarda determined the period of variability of this protypical pulsating red giant star to be about 11 months. It was found in 1923 by Aitken to have a close (0.6") visual companion. This fainter star is immersed in and presumably accreting material from the red giant's stellar wind. Mira, unlike most red giants, is in fact a weak X-ray source, and Jura and Helfand (1984, ApJ, 287,785) suggested that the emission is related to this wind-star interaction.
1572 Tycho Brahe, as well as Chinese and Korean astronomers, makes observations of an apparent new star that appeared in the constellation of Cassiopeia. This new star ("stella nova") initially rivaled Venus in brightness and then faded slowly to imperceptability over the next sixteen months. Astronomers have identified Tycho's `Star' as actually the explosion of a star, i.e., a supernova, and the extensively studied supernova remnant (and bright X-ray source) that it left behind , SNR 021.0+63.0, is now known as Tycho's Supernova Remnant in his honor.
1543 Publication of Nicolaus Copernicus' landmark "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium" (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) in which he proposed that the Sun was (close to) the center of the Universe (solar system), not the Earth, i.e., the heliocentric model.
1523 Chinese astronomers observe and record a `po star'. Wang (in New Century of X-Ray Astronomy, p. 284, 2001) argue that this `po star', unlike most others which are now believed to be comets, might have been a hypernova (a supernova like SN 1998bw which had much more kinetic energy release than the typical value), and that the magnetar PSR J1846-0258 is the neutron star remnant created in this event. However, most astronomers believe that the magnetar is instead the core of the star that exploded to form the supernova remnant 029.7-00.2 (Kes 75), and hence is much older than this event (2000 years rather than 500 years old).

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We would like to thank the following individuals for their contributions to this page: Jesse S. Allen, and Ian M. George along with JPL's Space Calendar and the Working Group for the History of Astronomy's Astronomiae Historia (History of Astronomy) information pages.

Web page author: Stephen A. Drake (based on an original by Jesse S. Allen)

Web page maintainer: Stephen A. Drake

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