Kashmir is known as ‘Heaven on earth’ and adding to the myths and legends of this picturesque location, Indian astrophysicists have unearthed a nearly 5,000-year-old rock carving which, they believe, is the oldest record of supernova and sky chart found in human history. Known to be the earliest form of human expression, the rock carving was found in Burzahama region in Kashmir on an irregular stone slab the size of about 48 cm by 27 cm.
The carvings date back to between 2,100 and 4,100 BC shows two bright objects in the sky with rays of light coming out of them. It also depicts a hunter spearing an animal below the first object.
“Our first argument was, there cannot be two suns. We thought it must have been an object that appeared and attracted the attention of the artists,” Indian astrophysicist, Mayank Vahia from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai told the Guardian. In a paper for the Indian Journal of History of Science, the scientist suggested that the second celestial body in the carving may actually be a supernova, a massive explosion that concludes the lifecycle of a star.
A supernova is an astronomical event that occurs during the last stellar evolutionary stages of a massive star's life, which is then marked by one final explosion. The researchers investigated the possibility that the rock drawing is the record of the supernova HB9 and found that only one Supernova remnant HB9 meets all the criteria. This particular supernova is said to have exploded around 4500 BC with a brightness comparable to the brightness of the Moon.
"We suggest that the partially drawn object is HB9 since it would be irregular and that the second bright object is Moon since the apparent magnitude of HB9 is closer to that of the Moon, this is not a terrestrial hunting scene but is actually a sky-map giving location of prominent constellations and the Moon on the day the supernova was first observed," said Hrishikesh Joglekar of TIFR.