Feeds

Hubble boffins: Incredibly old supernova could explain EVERYTHING

Might also answer poser: 'If supernovae were popcorn...'

Remote control for virtualized desktops

NASA's Hubble telescope has spotted the most distant massive star explosion of its kind ever, one which could help boffins understand the very fabric of the universe.

Hubble view of supernova SN Wilson

The telescope picked out Supernova UDS10Wil, also known as SN Wilson, in the night sky. The star apparently blew up over 10 billion years ago, and the resulting light from the explosion took that long to reach Earth.

Wilson is in the special class of Type Ia supernovae, which give astroboffins a consistent level of brightness that can be used to measure the expansion of space and also help with deductions about the nature of dark energy.

"This new distance record holder opens a window into the early universe, offering important new insights into how these stars explode," said astronomer David Jones of Johns Hopkins University, lead author on the paper detailing the discovery.

The find is only four per cent more distant than the last record holder, though that's still 350 million years farther back in time. Discovering Type Ia supernovae this early in the universe's life allows astroboffins to figure out which of two competing explosion models are correct. In one model, the explosion is caused by two white dwarf stars merging and in another, one white dwarf feeds off its partner, a normal star, until it greedily accretes too much mass and explodes.

"If supernovae were popcorn, the question is how long before they start popping?" Adam Riess of Space Telescope Science Institute asked. "You may have different theories about what is going on in the kernel. If you see when the first kernels popped and how often they popped, it tells you something important about the process of popping corn."

The evidence so far shows a sharp decline in the rate of Type Ia supernova blasts roughly 7.5 billion years ago and more than 10 billion years ago. The drop-off favours the theory that the explosions are caused by white dwarfs merging, because it predicts that most stars in the early universe are too young to become Type Ia supernovae.

Figuring out the trigger for these explosions will also show how quickly the universe enriched itself with heavier elements such as iron, one of the raw materials for building planets and life.

The team's results will be published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
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.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.