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Persian Philosophers Text Describes A Supernova In 1006 AD

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German scientists have discovered text that was written by Ibn Sina (he was a famous Persian philosopher). This new text shares the 11th Century scholar’s sighting of a supernova back in 1006 AD. The year was 397 according to the Islamic Hijri calendar when Ibn Sina (called Avicenna in Latin) describes witnessing the event right before his eyes.

SN 1006
Chandra’s image of SN 1006 shows X-rays from multimillion degree gas (red/green) and high-energy electrons (blue).

Ibn Sina was a Persian physician as well as a philosopher who is to this day named the most influential medieval Islamic philosopher/scientist in the world. Scientists who studied the writings estimate the text was written when Ibn Sina was in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or present day Iran. It is most likely that he was located in Uzbekistan.

Upon translation, researchers found Ibn Sina writing about tailless objects, setting it apart from other common objects found in the sky. He says the new star was becoming dimmer and dimmer until it completely disappeared. At first, Ibn Sina writes, it was a dark and green color and then sparks were thrown and the color white filled the space.

iba sina
Ibn Sina’s text revealed sighting of the SN 1006. (Image Credit: arXiv.org)

English translation, by the researchers R. Neuhauser, C. Ehrig-Eggert, and P. Kunitzsch, is as follows (words in round brackets are missing in one or some manuscripts, square brackets are researchers additions):

It therefore happens that the burning and flaming stays for a (long) while, either in form of a lock of hair or with a tail [i.e. in form of a comet], mostly in the north, but sometimes also in the south, or in form of a star among the stars [kawkab min al-kawakib ¯ ] – like the one which appeared in the year 397(h). It remained for close to three months [qar¯ıban min thalathat ashhur ¯ ] getting fainter and fainter until it disappeared; at the beginning it was towards a darkness and greenness, then it began to throw out sparks [yarm¯ı bi-l-sharar] all the time, and then it became more and more whitish and then became fainter and disappeared. It can also have the form of a beard or of an animal with horns or of other figures.

Historical supernova sightings help scientists to better understand celestial events and offers even more insight to the supernova reported in 1006 AD from previous reports located that stemmed from Yemen, China, Morocco and Japan. Even long after their passing, contemporary scientists are helping astronomers today by providing important supernova information. There have been sightings from both Eastern Asia and Arabia in the year 1054, Eastern Asia sightings in 1181, and Eastern Asian and Europe sightings in the years 1572 and 1604.

Such reports can offer a specific date, supplying important data regarding the age of the supernova and the neutron star. Light curve descriptions help scientists pinpoint the type of supernova witnessed, which helps better understand the evolution as well as the position. Scientists go further into their discoveries in their published paper on the ArXiv website.

Are you wondering how bright was supernova 1006 in night’s sky? This simulated video of SN 1006 phenomenon can help you visualize it better :