James Webb discovers his first supernova 3 billion light years from Earth

James Webb discovers his first supernova 3 billion light years from Earth

A brilliant light spotted three billion light-years from Earth by NASA’s James Webb Telescope (JWST) is believed to be the $10 billion oscilloscope’s first observation of an exploding dying star.

Formally known as a supernova, it is the “last hurray” that occurs when the star runs out of fuel. This lowers the pressure at which the cosmic object expands to at least five times the mass of our Sun — the size of about 333,000 Earths — and then detonates, releasing tons of debris and particles.

The starburst occurred in galaxy SDSS.J141930.11+5251593, where JWST captured images showing the light from an object fading for five days – a clue that sparked the theory of a supernova.

What’s additionally exciting is the fact that JWST was not designed to find and detect new transients, Mike Engesser of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) told Inverse, who first reported the discovery.

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James Webb discovers his first supernova 3 billion light years from Earth

Not only has James Webb spotted a supernova, but astronomers are baffled by the discovery because the telescope isn’t designed to find dying stars

The potential supernova was imaged with the NIRCam instrument, which is designed to detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies using a broad spectrum of infrared light.

NIRCam is equipped with coronagraphs, instruments that allow astronomers to take pictures of very faint objects around a central bright object, such as stellar systems or, in this case, stellar explosions.

JWST was studying the distant galaxy, so catching the supernova was a stroke of luck, Engesser told Inverse.

The dying star, which appears as a small bright dot in images, was not present in images of the galaxy taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2011.

The team used software to analyze James Webb's image

Then the software looked at an image of the galaxy taken by Hubble in 2011 to see if anything was different

The team used software to compare James Webb’s image to the same image taken by the Hubble in 2011, and this is how they identified the small, bright light

Engesser and his team used software designed to detect differences in the photos that led to the bright spot.

JWST has proven it’s money well spent, even just a week after it went live. Not only did it deliver its first official space images on July 12, but a week later scientists announced that it had discovered a 13.5-billion-year-old galaxy that is now the oldest in the universe visible to human eyes.

The galaxy called GLASS-z13 (GN-z13) formed just 300 million years after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

The previous record holder, discovered by the Hubble telescope in 2015, was GN-z11, which formed 400 million years after the Universe was born.

JWST caught a glimpse of GN-z13 with its near-infrared camera (NIRCam) instrument, which can detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies.

JWST has proven it's money well spent, even just a week after it went live.  Not only did it deliver its first official space images on July 12, but a week later scientists announced that it had discovered a 13.5-billion-year-old galaxy that is now the oldest in the universe visible to human eyes

JWST has proven it’s money well spent, even just a week after it went live. Not only did it deliver its first official space images on July 12, but a week later scientists announced that it had discovered a 13.5-billion-year-old galaxy that is now the oldest in the universe visible to human eyes

When GN-z13 surveyed the area, JWST also discovered GN-z11.

Scientists at the Harvard and Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics in Massachusetts note that although they are both old, each of the galaxies is very small, reports New Scientist.

GN-z13 is about 1,600 light-years across and GLASS z-11 is 2,300 light-years across.

This is compared to our own Milky Way, which is about 100,000 light-years across.

The paper, published in arXiv, notes that both galaxies have a mass of one billion suns, which is attributed to the fact that they formed shortly after the Big Bang.

The team suspects this happened as the galaxies grew and swallowed stars in the region.

“These two objects set new frontiers in galaxy evolution as early as the cosmic dawn epoch,” the researchers said in the publication.

“They indicate that the discovery of GNz11 was not simply a matter of luck, but that there is likely a population of UV light sources with very high star formation efficiencies that are capable of assembling.”

The James Webb Telescope: NASA’s $10 billion telescope was designed to discover light from the earliest stars and galaxies

The James Webb Telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unlock the mysteries of our universe.

The telescope will be used to look back to the first galaxies born in the early Universe more than 13.5 billion years ago and to observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even the moons and planets of our solar system.

The giant telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is believed to be the successor to the Hubble orbiting space telescope

The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 degrees Celsius).

It is the largest and most powerful orbital space telescope in the world, able to look back 100 to 200 million years after the Big Bang.

The orbiting infrared observatory is said to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA considers James Webb to be Hubble’s successor rather than a replacement as the two will be working together for a while.

The Hubble Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It orbits the Earth at a speed of about 17,000 mph (27,300 km/h) in low Earth orbit at about 340 miles altitude.

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