A supernova is an incredibly energetic stellar explosion. The name arises from the brightness of these blasts, which makes it look like a “new” star has appeared in the heavens. After astronomer Tycho Brahe’s 1573 work De stella nova
, meaning “concerning the new star,” the name nova
stuck around for such objects (even though he actually described not a nova but a supernova, now called SN 1572). In the 20th century, scientists realized there were two types of stellar explosions, and quirky astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky coined the term supernova
to refer to the bigger and brighter explosions.