NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the farthest supernova yet found. Supernova UDS10Wil, nicknamed SN Wilson after American President Woodrow Wilson, exploded more than 10 billion years ago.
SN Wilson belongs to a special class called Type Ia supernovae. They are of particular interest to astronomers as they are so consistently bright they can be used to measure the expansion of space. They also shine light on the nature of dark energy, the mysterious force that accelerates the rate at which the universe expands.
“This new distance record holder opens a window into the early universe, offering important new insights into how these stars explode,” said David O. Jones of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, an astronomer and lead author on the paper detailing the discovery. “We can test theories about how reliable these detonations are to understand the evolution of the universe and its expansion.”
The discovery was part of a three-year Hubble programme, begun in 2010, to survey faraway Type Ia supernovae and determine their evolution over the 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang. Astronomers used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to search for supernovae in near-infrared light and verify their distance with spectroscopy.
NASA has uncovered more than 100 supernovae of all types and distances, looking back in time from 2.4 billion years to more than 10 billion years. Of these, it has identified eight Type Ia supernovae, including SN Wilson, that exploded more than 9 billion years ago.
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