Science

Ancient Rock Art Could Be The Oldest Depiction Of Supernova

Astronomers in India have managed to uncover an ancient rock art. They believe that the rock art is the oldest depiction of a supernova found on our planet. Supernovas are the explosion of dying stars, and with the knowledge of them, scientists have managed to understand many things about the universe. When a star goes into a supernova, astronomers can track the energy that it released, of which they later make VR models of them to explore.

Ancient Rock Art Supernova
Image source: Indian Journal of History of Science (pdf)

Astrophysicist Mayank Vahia along with his colleagues at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research believe people who lived in Buzahama, a part of Kashmir in Northern India, could have been the first to record a supernova on ancient rock art around 5,000 years ago. According to the report in Quartz, the team of scientists found a rock with a drawing of two cosmic objects.

“You cannot have two suns in the sky,” co-author Mayank Vahia told the podcast The Intersection.

According to the report, as the carving couldn’t stand for two Suns or a Sun-Moon duo, the astronomers believe that one of the objects could be a full Moon, while the other could be a supernova located at close proximity to our Solar System. Even if that solar explosion was thousands of light years away from us, people on Earth could have seen it through the darkness of the universe and it could have appeared as bright as the moon.

Scientists wanted to confirm the supernova, and they examined the ancient rock art, which was quite a challenging task. They tried to gather all stellar explosions which were visible around 4100BC and 2100BC which would have been in the area when the first settlers came to the area. They managed to narrow it down to a supernova called HB9. According to the report, the stellar explosion would have happened around roughly 3600 BC, which would appear as a glowing ball of light to people on Earth. They could have depicted it with this art, which is likely the oldest depiction of a supernova.

According to another report in Newsweek, there have been several supernovas observed over the centuries. The oldest example dates from 185 A.D. dubbed as RCW 86 or the “guest star.” It appeared in the night sky and remained there for about eight months. According to NASA, that supernova was 8,000 light years away.

Vahia’s study has been published in the Indian Journal of History and Science and states that the rock carving shows more than an exploding star. The drawing seems to show a hunting scene located under two large space objects located in the sky. However, astronomers said in a study that the scene is compatible with the constellations that would have been around the supernova in the sky, that being Orion, which is a man with a bow and arrow, and Taurus, which is a deer, and Pisces, which is a man holding a spear.

The team of astronomers say that this rock art could be one of the oldest depictions of the sky ever discovered but that it still needs more evidence and could even be a coincidence.