James Webb Space Telescope Chronicles Its First Supernova; Why It Matters?


Astronomers using the James Webb Space Telescope believe they have managed to observe a supernova, thanks to JWST’s NIRCam instrument. The data collected by James Webb was compared with the Hubble telescope’s data, which suggested that it could be a star that has gone supernova, reported Inverse.

James Webb Space Telescope Spots Its First Supernova; Why It Matters?

A supernova appears when a huge star comes to the end of its life. While collapsing, the star emits its material and a heavy amount of light, creating a cosmic spectacle. This explosion is so massive that it can be spotted from great distances. James Webb spotted a similar light flash in the galaxy SDSS.J141930.11+5251593.

James Webb Delivering Beyond Expectations

Two observations of the galaxy were made in five days by the space telescope. In the second observation, the flash was less bright, pointing at the dimming of the light over time. “We would need more time series data to make a determination, but the data we do have does match that of a supernova, so it’s a very good candidate,” Mike Engesser, Space Telescope Science Institute told Inverse.

What’s more surprising is how James Webb's extreme sensitivity managed to find it. Supernovae are transient events and do not last for a long time. And the supernova in question happened billions of years ago and is visible right now because it takes light a lot of time to travel to us from distant galaxies.

Webb researchers are making the most of the telescope as it wasn’t built to detect supernovae. And the data collected so far has been impressive. Observing the area around the supernova will enable scientists to study the aftermath of such cosmic explosions.

Why Is This Observation Important?

What makes this observation crucial is that it will help scientists understand a star’s life cycle and also measure the expansion of the universe. Most physicists are on the same page when it comes to the rapidly increasing expansion of the universe. A 1998 study used a specific type of supernova to measure distances between objects in the cosmos.

These supernovae are known as Type Ia supernovae, and they occur when a white dwarf star in a binary star system attracts a heavy amount of material from its companion star that it collapses due to its own mass. Since Type Ia supernovae emit the same amount of brightness, researchers can measure how bright a supernova appears to calculate its distance. Scientists refer to these objects as “standard candles.”

It has been only a few days since the James Webb Space Telescope started operations, but the telescope has already shown what it is capable of. It can unravel several mysteries of the universe that have been intriguing astronomers for a long time.

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