Earlier this week a team of international scientists reported they have used observations from NASA's Swift satellite and other telescopes to witness the evolution of a cosmic blast into a stellar explosion or supernova.
The blast is thought to be a milder type of gamma-ray burst (GRB) -- the most powerful type of explosion known to astronomers -- called an X-ray flash.
It is known as GRB060218 after the February 18 date it began in the constellation of Aries about 440 million light years away. A light year is about 6 trillion miles, the distance light travels in a year.
"This extends the GRB-supernova connection to X-ray flashes and fainter supernovae, implying a common origin," said Elena Pian of Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics in Trieste and the lead author of one of four research papers about the event in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
It is the second-closest gamma-ray burst ever detected and the first view of a supernova in the act of exploding, according to the astronomers.