Hubble captures a rare image of a supernova evolving in the early universe

Hubble captures a rare image of a supernova evolving in the early universe

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope brings us an amazing and rare ‘bang from the past’. In a recent image, the telescope captured three different moments in a supernova explosion that occurred more than 11 billion years ago. In the “universe years”, this is just childhood, which is certainly incredible. However, Hubble’s signature shot of something else, too: A supernova launch as it happens isn’t exactly an everyday sight.

To take this shot, Hubble relied on a phenomenon called gravity lens. For this particular image, the massive gravity of the galaxy cluster Abell 370 served as a cosmic lens. It distorts, bends and magnifies the light from the supernova farthest behind the cluster, and this twisting also produced multiple images of the explosion over different time periods. The interesting thing is that they all arrived at Earth at the same time, and you can see them all in one image from Hubble. “This was only possible because the magnified images took different paths through the cluster due to differences in the length of the paths followed by the supernova light and because of the time slowing and space curvature due to gravity,” NASA explains.

The left panel shows the part of Abell 370 where the multiple images of the supernova appeared. Panel A, a composite of Hubble observations from 2011 to 2016, shows the locations of the host galaxy doubly imaged after the supernova faded. Panel B, a Hubble image from December 2010, shows the three images of the host galaxy and the supernova at different stages of their evolution. Panel C, which subtracts the image in Panel B from that in Panel A, shows three different faces of the evolving supernova. Using a similar image subtraction process for multiple filters of data, panel D shows the different colors of the cooling supernova at three different stages of its evolution.
Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI, Winley Chen (UMN), Patrick Kelly (UMN), Hubble Frontier Fields

In the image, you can see the rapid change in color of the supernova. As NASA explains, this refers to a temperature change. While we associate blue with cold and red with warmth, it’s quite the opposite in pictures. The bluer the color, the hotter the supernova, so the first phase captured appears blue. As the supernova gets colder, its light turns red.

“This is also the first time astronomers have been able to measure the size of a dying star in the early universe,” NASA wrote. “This was dependent on supernova brightness and cooling rate, both of which depend on the size of the progenitor star.”

The top box shows a portion of Abell 370. The box inside the box indicates the region where the distant supernova was doubled. The bottom image is an enlarged version of this region with the light paths marked for the three images of the supernova. The right side of the bottom image shows the distant galaxy in which the supernova exploded. The lines show how light travels through a gravitational lens, with some light taking longer paths through the “valleys” of distorted space. The convolution produced three images of the eruption over different time periods that all arrived at Hubble simultaneously.
Credits: NASA, European Space Agency, Alyssa Pagan (STScI)


Our universe is currently 13.8 billion years old, and the most recent photo of the supernova was taken when it was less than a fifth of its current age. “This is the first detailed look at a supernova so early in the history of the universe,” NASA wrote in the NASA journal. statement. Of course, it can be very useful to scientists and enables them to learn more about the formation of stars and galaxies in the early universe. The paper explaining the captured supernova was recently published in temper nature magazine.

[via Digital Trends]

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