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Publication Date


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The Astronomical Journal


Department of Physics and Astronomy


Although the connection of the Chinese "guest" star of 393 AD with the Galactic supernova remnant RX J1713.7-3946 (G347.3-0.5) made by Wang et al. in 1997 is consistent with the remnant's relatively young properties and the guest star's projected position within the "tail" of the constellation Scorpius, there are difficulties with such an association. The brief Chinese texts concerning the 393 AD guest star make no comment about its apparent brightness, stating only that it disappeared after eight months. However, at the remnant's current estimated 1-1.3 kpc distance and A V 3, its supernova (SN) should have been a visually bright object at maximum light (–3.5 to –5.0 mag) if MV = – 17 to –18 and would have remained visible for over a year. The peak brightness 0 mag adopted by Wang et al. and others would require the RX J1713.7-3946 supernova to have been a very subluminous event similar to or fainter than SN 2005cs in M51. We also note problems connecting SN 393 with a European record in which the Roman poet Claudian describes a visually brilliant star in the heavens around 393 AD that could be readily seen even in midday. Although several authors have suggested this account may be a reference to the Chinese supernova of 393, Scorpius would not be visible near midday in March when the Chinese first reported the 393 guest star. We review both the Chinese and Roman accounts and calculate probable visual brightnesses for a range of SN subtypes and conclude that neither the Chinese nor the Roman descriptions are easily reconciled with an expected RX J1713.7-3946 supernova brightness and duration.