Titanic, fugitive thermonuclear explosion. Disappearing act. Nature’s atomic bomb. NASA makes sure how to describe a supernova, the last moments of a star’s existence.
Seventy million light years away in the beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 2525, a white dwarf exploded and the Hubble Space Telescope observed its last days. NASA and the European Space Agency, which jointly run Hubble, released a rare time-lapse of the fading glow of supernovae.
The space telescope first began seeing a supernova named SN 2018 GV in February 2018. The Hubble annotations are about a year in time.
Supernova initially outpaced other stars in its host galaxy. “When a star gains as much energy over several days as our sun does over several billion years, you know it won’t be visible for long,” NASA said in a statement on Thursday.
Hubble observed the supernova while scientists were working to better understand the expansion rate of the universe. “More than just providing celestial fireworks, supernovas can be used as milepost markers to measure the distance of galaxies,” NASA said. “This yardstick needs to calculate how quickly galaxies appear to be flying apart from each other, which in turn provides an age estimate for the universe.”
While supernovas are relatively common throughout the duration of the universe, Hubble’s time-lapse gives us a rare glimpse at the dramatic process as well as a poignant reminder that even stars are not permanent.
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