April 18, 2011

Supernova ‘Royal Star’ Seen At King Charles II Birth

Legend has it that a noon-day star appeared in 1630 at the birth of King Charles II, who later was restored to the English monarchy after his father was executed, reports AFP.

Edward Matthew, an English writer, described the event as "The Most Glorious Star"¦ shining most brightly in a Miraculous manner in the Face of the Sun," in 1661. He writes in a pamphlet, "Never any Starre [had] appeared before at the birth of any (the Highest humane Hero) except our Savior."

Historians have always dismissed the notion of a "royal star" as propaganda to seal Charles II's claim to the throne after his father was overthrown.

However, astronomer Martin Lunn and historian Lila Rakoczy now argue that the remnants of a supernova called Cassiopeia A (Cas A) was seen as the "royal star" that was visible during the day at the birth of the king.

They will be presenting this controversial idea at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting on April 18 in Llandudno, Wales.

The researchers theorize that the explosion of a massive star took place about 11,000 years ago, which left remnants of Cas A that was seen the day of the king's birth.

Every radio-astronomer today is familiar with the former star and sees it as a "seething X-ray ember that is no longer visible to the naked eye," reports AFP.

It has been a long-standing mystery in the history of astronomy about when the explosion of Cas A would have been visible on Earth. Many have accepted the event occurring in the latter half of the seventeenth century.

Other "sketchy" sources say that a celestial sighting occurred in the 17th century, AFP reports researchers as saying. However, these observations were stretched over a period of 30 years in the latter part of the century.

Chinese chroniclers in 185 AD noted a "guest star" that a team of astronomers in 2006 estimates to be a supernova whose remnants, RCW 86, still glows today in non-visible parts of the energy spectrum, reports AFP.

In 1572, a supernova was spotted by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. It lingered for 18 months.

These appearances destroyed the Aristotle notion that the Universe was fixed and unchanged.

Lun is a former curator of Astronomy at the Yorkshire Museum and Rakoczy is a U.S.-based independent scholar. They suggest that the Cas A could have been seen earlier on May 29, 1630 "“ the date in which King Charles II of Great Britain was born.

The "noon-day star" that appeared at the royal birth was later used in Stuart/Restoration propaganda.

Historian and literary scholars have widely discussed the credibility of the star as a genuine astronomical event, but it has remained unexplored.

"The number and variety of sources that refer to the new star strongly suggest that an astronomical event really did take place," Lunn says. "Our work raises questions about the current method for dating supernovae, but leads to the exciting possibility of solving a decades-old astronomical puzzle."

The Parliament, during the 1642-1651 English civil war revolted against the monarch's claim to have a divine right to rule. Known as Roundheads, the Parliament executed King Charles I in 1649.

Returning from exile in 1660, King Charles II became known as "the Merry Monarch" for his pleasure-loving ways after the era of puritanism, reports AFP.

But Charles II acknowledged that the monarch reigns with the consent of parliament, which is the principal that is British democracy today.


Image Caption: An X-ray image of the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant made with the Chandra X-ray observatory. Credit: NASA/CXC/MIT/UMass Amherst/M.D.Stage et al.


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