Image of the Day: The Oldest Supernova Explosion Ever Detected

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Astronomers have discovered the oldest and farthest supernova ever detected — a massive star that exploded 11 billion years ago.

Scientists compared several years of images taken from one portion of the sky, which let them look for objects that changed in brightness over time — “subtracting” the changes from the original image –- which erased the entire galaxy save for the supernova, which had changed.


“What we’re looking for are things that were there one year, but which weren’t there the next,” said Mark Sullivan, an astronomer from the University of Oxford in the UK and one of the authors of the study, in a separate BBC report.

Prior to this discovery, NASA’s Swift Observatory had detected a 13-billion-year-old gamma-ray burst, most likely from a supernova near the beginning of the Universe. But this latest discovery marks the first confirmation of a full-on star explosion.

Image credit: NASA/RCW 86 supernova

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