When a star discharges as much energy in a matter of days as the Sun does in billion years, we know it’s not going to stay visible for long.
Just like a cosmic paparazzo, NASA’s praised and mighty Hubble Space Telescope spotted and captured, of course, the evanescent celebrity status of a supernova, the self-destruction of a star.
The impressive Hubble shots have been assembled into a fascinating telling movie of the giant stellar explosion fading into oblivion in the spiral galaxy NGC 2525, 70 million light-years away. Here is what you need to know.
Hubble’s Latest Shot Details
The Hubble Space Telescope started observing SN 2018gv back in 2018. Koichi Itagaki, an amateur astronomer, first spotted the supernova.
Hubble astronomers were utilizing the supernova as part of a project to estimate the expansion rate of the Universe accurately. The supernova also serves as a milepost maker to calculate galaxy lengths, a fundamental value for measuring space expansion.
In the incredible time-lapse sequence of almost a year, the supernova first looked like a blazing star on the galaxy’s outer edge. Ar first, it outshined the brightest stars in the Universe, then it faded out of sight. According to astronomers, there are no Earthly fireworks to compete with this supernova.
Moreover, this type of supernova originates from a burned-out star (a white dwarf from a near binary system) that is actually accreting matter from its companion star. When the white dwarf enters a critical mass, its core turns hot enough to ignite nuclear fusion, becoming a giant atomic bomb.
That thermonuclear process finally tears the dwarf apart, and the opulence is short-lived as the fireball disappears.
Because this type of supernovae peak at the same brightness, they’re dubbed “standard candles.” They act as cosmic tape measures. Astronomers can calculate the distances of their host galaxies, knowing the supernova’s brightness and observing its brightness in the sky.
Over the last three decades, Hubble has helped improve the precision of the Universe’s expansion rate.
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