Long streamers of gas glow in the Large Magellanic cloud, remnants of a supernova blast that destroyed a white dwarf in a Type 1a supernova. Its remnants are known as SNR 0454-67.2. Such explosions occur when a white dwarf sucks in enough material from a companion star to reach a critical mass, triggering a catastrophic core collapse, rebound and shock wave that blows the star apart. Its remnants are blasted into the surrounding space, including heavy elements that were cooked up in the detonation. Because Type 1a supernovas all occur in the same fashion, they shine with a known brightness, or luminosity, that can be used to determine their distance. Such supernovae are known as “standard candles” and they are critical to modern cosmology, helping astronomers measure changes in the acceleration of the universe’s expansion due to dark energy.
This image of the spiral galaxy NGC 3274 comes courtesy of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Hubble’s WFC3 vision spreads from the ultraviolet light through to the near infrared, allowing astronomers to study a wide range of targets, from nearby star formation through to galaxies in the most remote regions of the cosmos.
At a ceremony held today in Germany, the European Southern Observatory and the ACe Consortium signed the largest contract ever in ground-based astronomy for key components of the 39-metre aperture European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The 85-metre-diameter, 5000 tonne dome and telescope structure will take telescope engineering into new territory.
Astronomers have used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the VLA to determine the likely trigger for the most recent supernova in the Milky Way. They applied a new technique that could have implications for understanding other Type Ia supernovae, a class of stellar explosions that scientists use to determine the expansion rate of the universe.