Feeds

Stargazers spot oldest supernova yet

'I remember when it was all hydrogen around here...'

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Astronomers from the University of California have spied a supernova which lit up the early universe 10.7 billion years ago - 1.5 billion years before the previous record holder and just 3 billions years after the big bang.

A team led by Jeff Cooke spotted the event - a "type II"* supernova provoked by the core collapse of a star 50-100 times more massive than the Sun - in images from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey, which snapped the same four patches of sky over five years using a 3.6-metre telescope.

The 'scope concentrated on small areas of sky - roughly four times the size of the Moon, the Times explains - on around 130 nights of observation between between 2003 and 2007.

By combining all the photos, the atronomers were able to peer back much further into the distant past than previously possible.

Cooke explained: “If you stack all those images in one big pile then you can reach deeper and see fainter objects. It’s a bit like photography when you open the shutter for a long time. You’ll collect more light with a longer exposure.”

The researchers hope the ongoing survey will find other ancient supernovae and "shed light on how the universe became seeded with heavier elements", as New Scientist puts it.

The big bang is thought to have churned out just a few light elements - hydrogen, helium, and lithium - while supernovae took on the job of creating all the other elements which now form the universe.

As New Scientist notes, there are further projects in the pipeline which could use the same multiple imaging technique to peer back to the early universe. The 8.2-metre Subaru telescope in Hawaii should in 2012 be equipped with the splendidly-named Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC), while NASA is planning to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 2014.

Cooke said: "Using this method, we should be able to see objects much farther away and therefore much farther back in time, and actually see some of the first stars that ever lived."

The team's full findings are published in the current issue of Nature (subscription required). ®

Bootnote

*Characterised by a line of hydrogen in the spectrum. Hydrogen is not present in other types of supernovae.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.