SN 1054 was one of the most spectacular astronomical events of all time. The supernova blast ultimately formed what is today known as the M1, the Crab Nebula. However, in 1054 AD, the year it occurred, it was an ultra-bright star in the sky and one of only eight listed supernovae in the history of the Milky Way. Yet, it was only reported by half of the literate world. Mainly written about in the East, especially in China, SN 1054 was practically absent from the Western record—except, potentially, for a subtle clue at it in the most unlikely place, in some Byzantine coins.
At least, that is the current theory according to an international group of researchers in the European Journal of Science and Theology. They discovered that a particular version of a coin forged by Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX showed two stars around the emperor’s head, which represents a nod to SN 1054, despite any written proof for the supernova’s existence elsewhere in the Christian world.
The researchers discovered a special edition of a coin, recognized in the technical jargon as the Constantine IX Monomachos Class IV coin, which has two stars correlated to the single star visible on the other three classes of coins forged during the monarch’s reign.
The Class IV is believed to be minted between the summer of 1054 and the spring of 1055 and has two visible stars on either side of the monarch’s head. One star is supposed to represent Venus, the Morning Star, whereas the monarch’s head itself is thought to represent the sun. The other star could potentially depict the “guest star” of the SN 1054 supernova.