This panel of images reveals a newly discovered exploding star, the faraway galaxy in which it resides, and its location in the night sky over Baltimore, Md.
Named Supernova Mikulski, in honor of the United States Senator from Maryland Barbara A. Mikulski, the explosion was spotted Jan. 25, 2012, by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys. The supernova, which lies 7.5 billion light-years away, is the death of a star more than eight times as massive as our Sun.
The top panel is a sky chart showing the location of the supernova in the night sky. The silhouette is the Baltimore skyline. Prominent constellations are labeled in green, with imaginary lines connecting the brightest stars, which are identified in blue text.
The red "X" marks the supernova's location in the constellation Sextans, between constellations Leo and Hydra. Supernova Mikulski cannot be seen in the night sky. Even at its brightest, the supernova could only be detected by a powerful telescope, such as Hubble, because it is so extremely far away. Its light, however, has now faded, and the exploding star is not visible with any instrument.
The Hubble image at bottom left shows the region in which the supernova was found. The white box pinpoints the supernova's home galaxy. The faraway galaxy is undergoing a burst of star formation.
The two Hubble close-up images at right show the galaxy before the supernova's glow is seen and just after it was spotted. The green dot in the image at bottom right reveals the supernova's location. Hubble began looking at the region in late November 2011 and observed the area for four months.
The three Hubble images are a blend of visible and near-infrared light.
Astronomers found the exploding star while using Hubble to take a census of the most distant stellar detonations. They are using the three-year survey called the CANDELS+CLASH Supernova Project to study regions targeted by two large Hubble programs: the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS) and the Cluster Lensing and Supernova Survey with Hubble (CLASH). The project is led by Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and The Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Md. Riess shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics with two other astronomers for co-discovering that the universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating pace. The supernova was found in the CANDELS survey.
Astronomers hope the supernova will help them understand star formation in the early universe.