The universe is permeated with extraordinary phenomena, bodies, and events. To name a few, galactic cannibals that devour and subdue everything in their path, ultra-dense stars that rotate hundreds of times per second, spectacles of light and hazy colors adorn the cosmic garden, and colossal explosions that tear matter and surrounding space-time. These starbursts are the final breath of the stars, their death. Supernovae are powerful events that incandescent and eclipse the entire galaxy and constitute an interesting study object for experts. The Hubble Space Telescope has just captured a supernova explosion in a distant galaxy, and the images are outstanding.
The science and other stuff to know
Like everything in the universe, the stars have a cycle: a beginning, an evolution, and an end. The death of a star is a lavish and fascinating spectacle. At an advanced age, the thermonuclear equilibrium is broken, causing the outer layers of material to be ejected into the middle, thus stripping the star’s core. The intensity of the explosion is related to the mass of the star. The lightest die, leaving what is known as a supernova behind. A nebula enriched with the raw material produced by the star during its lifetime houses a white dwarf inside. If the star is more massive — above three solar masses — a post-outburst black hole is produced due to the gravitational collapse of the star’s core.
Hubble Space Telescope (HST) recently observed the outbreak of a supernova located 11 billion light-years away. It means that this star died when the universe was very young. The detection was possible with the help of the optical amplification effect produced by an intermediary galaxy cluster known as Abell 370. The phenomenon is known as gravitational lensing and consists of a huge mass bending the aces of light, allowing us to see things behind it.
The HST captured the supernova in its primary stage and then twice after that, providing experts with important data on its evolution: “You have the massive star, the core collapses, it crashes, it heats up, and then you see it cool down during a week,” added Patrick Kelly, co-author of the article.
Wenlei Chen is the lead author of the paper published in November in Nature. He is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota College of Physics and Astronomy. In an official NASA statement, he said: “It’s quite rare that you can detect a supernova at a very early stage because that stage is really short. It lasts from hours to a few days and can be easily missed, even for close detection. In the same exposure, we can see a sequence of images, like multiple sides of a supernova.”
The authors, Chen and Kelly, plan to continue observing and studying distant supernova events using the data they will collect from the James Webb Telescope. The objective is to compile a catalog of distant supernovae that is a foundation for understanding stellar dynamics throughout the universe’s evolution.