NASA Shares Extremely Rare Star Explosion Chronicled By Hubble Telescope

NASA Shares Rare Star Explosion Chronicled By Hubble Telescope
Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI,

Capturing an image of a star as it goes supernova is a rare feat. Well, Hubble Space Telescope has done just that! Researchers combined data from Hubble Space Telescope’s archives and found imagery of an exploding star from some 11 billion years ago. The light of the supernova was obscured by a galaxy cluster. It marks the first time such an event has been observed from the ancient days of the universe.


The research would enable astronomers to learn more about how stars and galaxies were formed in the ancient universe. What makes these supernova images special is that they show the early stages of a stellar explosion.

Gravitational Lensing Made It Possible

"It is quite rare that a supernova can be detected at a very early stage because that stage is really short," said Wenlei Chen, who is the lead author of an accompanying study published in the journal Nature.

"It only lasts for hours to a few days, and it can be easily missed even for a nearby detection," he added. "In the same exposure, we are able to see a sequence of the images — like multiple faces of a supernova."

Thanks to a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, the researchers were able to spot the faraway supernova. When the light behind a galaxy is magnified and its gravity is warped, it creates an opportunity for telescopes on Earth to observe distant space objects that are otherwise too far and faint to be observed.

Thankfully, the warping proved to be more helpful than usual, as telescopes managed to capture multiple images from different time periods in one go.

How Were Three Different Time Periods Captured?

The light from separate moments in the star explosion event reached different distances through the lensing and was slowed down due to the extreme gravity of the lens galaxy, which made different “routes” of light reach the telescopes simultaneously.

Due to this instant timelapse, the astronomers managed to measure the star explosion’s rate of cooling and calculated the size of the star before it went supernova. The team believes it was a red giant and was 500 times larger in size compared to our Sun.

"You see different colors in the three different images," said Patrick Kelly, who led the study. "You've got the massive star, the core collapses, it produces a shock, it heats up, and then you're seeing it cool over a week. I think that's probably one of the most amazing things I've ever seen!"

Dead Star Without An Atmosphere

Recently, a team of researchers discovered a dead star without an atmosphere that seems to have a solid exterior. They observed magnetar 4U 0142+61, which is located 13,000 light-years away in the Cassiopeia constellation.

The team used the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) satellite, which is a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency. It offered them a new way of seeing X-ray light in the cosmos by measuring its polarization.

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