Ancient supernova is oldest and most distant one ever found

Researchers have recently viewed the oldest and most distant supernova on record.
By Joseph Scalise | Feb 22, 2018
Astronomers from the University of Southampton have found a rare class of supernova that occurred 10.5 billion years ago back when the universe was still relatively young, according to astudy published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Supernovae occur when stars explode during the last stages of their life. The event typically happen when changes trigger in the stellar core. Though they only burn for a short while, the massive blasts give astronomers valuable insight into the universe.

In the new research, the team viewed the exploding star known as DES16C2nmm, which they believe to be the most distant supernova ever detected.

While scientists recently viewed the event, they believe it took roughly 10.5 billion year for the light from the massive blast to reach Earth. That means that, not only is the event the most distant supernova on record, it is also the oldest.

This discovery is exciting because supernovae are quite rare. Researchers almost never encounter them, and when they do, it is always a significant event.

DES16C2nm is a superluminous supernova (SLSN), which means it is the brightest and rarest type of supernovae. The class was only discovered a decade ago, which means the recent study gives new insight into how such supernovae work.

"The ultraviolet light from SLSN informs us of the amount of metal produced in the explosion and the temperature of the explosion itself, both of which are key to understanding what causes and drives these cosmic explosions," said lead author Mathew Smith, a researcher at the University of Southampton, according to Tech Times.

The team hopes that further study of the explosion will lead to new research within both stellar astrophysics and cosmology. As SLSN are up to 100 times brighter than the more common type 1a supernova, they can be seen at greater distances. Study of them would give researchers the ability to look more deeply into the history of the universe and better understand certain mysteries, such as how black holes or dark matter are formed.

"It's thrilling to be part of the survey that has discovered the oldest known supernova," added Smith, according to Newsweek. "DES16C2nm is extremely distant, extremely bright, and extremely rarenot the sort of thing you stumble across every day as an astronomer."


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