The James Webb Space Telescope surprised scientists when it unexpectedly detected the first supernova, the explosion of a dying star. Scientists say the discovery could open up an entirely new field of research possibilities.
A few days after the start of its scientific operations, the James Webb Space TelescopeNIRCam’s NIRCam has spotted an unexpected bright object in a file galaxy It is called SDSS.J141930.11 + 5251593, about 3 to 4 billion light years From a land. The shiny object darkened over a period of five days, indicating that it could be a file Supernova, was caught by sheer luck shortly after the star exploded. (The astronomers compared the new observations to data archived from Hubble Space Telescope To confirm that the light was new.)
This discovery is surprising because the James Webb Space Telescope was not designed to search for supernovae. A mission usually performed by wide-field scanning telescopes that surveys large portions of the sky at short intervals of time. On the other hand, Webb searches in great detail a very small area of a file Universe. For example, file Deep field photo released by US President Joe Biden In mid-July, it covered an area about the size of a grain of sand.
Where detection (Opens in a new tab) Already emerging in the first week of Webb’s science operations, astronomers believe that the depth of Webb’s images may actually make up for the small area. Each deep field image includes hundreds of galaxies – which means hundreds of opportunities to discover a supernova.
Early detection suggests the telescope may be able to see supernovae on a regular basis, according to inverse (Opens in a new tab). This would be exciting, especially because Webb is expected to see the first galaxies that formed in the universe, in the first hundreds of millions of years after the great explosion. Combine this ancient view with his discovery of an unexpected supernova, and Webb might be able to capture the explosion of a first-generation star that lit up the universe after its dark early ages. Astronomers believe that these stars have a much simpler chemical composition than stars born in later eras.
Says Mike Engiser, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, who runs the Web site that led the team Announcing the disclosureInverse said. “It could have been huge – 200 to 300 times our mass the sun, and they would certainly live some kind of “live fast, die young” lifestyle. Seeing these kinds of eruptions is something we haven’t done yet.”
The detection of a supernova marks the death of a younger star, only 3 to 4 billion years old, but it’s a promising start for a telescope designed to do something somewhat different.
Supernovas are difficult to detect because the explosion itself only lasts a fraction of a second. The bright bubble of dust and gas generated by these stellar deaths fades away after only a few days, so the telescope needs to look in the right direction in time to catch one.
Now astronomers must hope that the Web’s first supernova isn’t just newbie luck.
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