NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured a star that exploded and died 11 billion years ago.
A massive cluster of galaxies warped the light from this supernova into three reflections.
The three prints show different colored stages of the supernova explosion.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope watched a distant star die, explode and disappear in rare detail.
The star died more than 11 billion years ago, when the universe was less than a fifth of its current age of 13.8 billion years, but the light from its violent explosion is coming from reach Earth. It’s the first time astronomers have looked closely at a supernova so early in the history of the universe.
Hubble saw the star collapsing, ejecting its outer layers in a violent explosion, then cooling. Based on the brightness of the supernova and how quickly it cooled, scientists calculated that this star was 500 times larger than the sun. The researchers’ paper was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
“You have the massive star, the core is collapsing, it’s shocking, it’s heating up, and then you see it cooling for a week. I think that’s probably one of the most amazing things I’ve seen. never seen,” Patrick Kelly, study leader and assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said in the NASA press release.
It’s a rare sight, especially so early in the universe, since a supernova’s explosion and cooling occurs in just hours or days.
The multicolored faces of a supernova, distorted in spacetime
Hubble spotted this supernova by gravitational lensing. This is what happens when a cluster of distant galaxies is so massive that it distorts spacetime, distorting and amplifying the light from distant stars behind it. This creates mirror images of those stars, which are reflected back to us.
In this case, the gravitational lens created three images of the same supernova at different times. That’s because the light from the explosion took three different paths around the massive galaxy cluster. The paths had different lengths, so the light arrived at different times, reflecting images of three different stages of the star’s death.
This is why the three reflections are of different colors – as the supernova’s temperature changed rapidly over the course of a week, its color also changed. In the first extremely hot phases, the star appeared blue. As it cooled, it looked redder.
“It’s quite rare that a supernova can be detected at a very early stage, because this stage is really short,” said Wenlei Chen, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who studied this supernova. statement.
“It only lasts a few hours to a few days, and it can easily be missed even for close detection. In the same exposure, we are able to see a sequence of images – like multiple faces of a supernova,” said Chen said.
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