News Release Archive:

News Release 663 of 1051

April 2, 2001 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2001-09

Blast from the Past: Farthest Supernova Ever Seen Sheds Light on Dark Universe


Image: Hubble Spies Most Distant Supernova Ever Seen

Hubble Spies Most Distant Supernova Ever SeenSTScI-PRC2001-09

Screen-use options: These files are created for viewing on your monitor

Print-use download options: These files are designed to fit on letter-size paper


Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers pinpointed a blaze of light from the farthest supernova ever seen, a dying star that exploded 10 billion years ago.

The detection and analysis of this supernova, called 1997ff, is greatly bolstering the case for the existence of a mysterious form of dark energy pervading the cosmos, making galaxies hurl ever faster away from each other. The supernova also offers the first glimpse of the universe slowing down soon after the Big Bang, before it began speeding up.

This panel of images, taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, shows the supernova's cosmic neighborhood; its home galaxy; and the dying star itself.

Astronomers found this supernova in 1997 during a second look at the northern Hubble Deep Field [top panel], a tiny region of sky first explored by the Hubble telescope in 1995. The image shows the myriad of galaxies Hubble spied when it peered across more than 10 billion years of time and space. The white box marks the area where the supernova dwells.

The photo at bottom left is a close-up view of that region. The white arrow points to the exploding star's home galaxy, a faint elliptical. Its redness is due to the billions of old stars residing there.

The picture at bottom right shows the supernova itself, distinguished by the white dot in the center. Although this stellar explosion is among the brightest beacons in the universe, it could not be seen directly in the Hubble images. The stellar blast is so distant from Earth that its light is buried in the glow of its host galaxy.

To find the supernova, astronomers compared two pictures of the "deep field" taken two years apart. One image was of the original Hubble Deep Field; the other, the follow-up deep-field picture taken in 1997. Using special computer software, astronomers then measured the light from the galaxies in both images. Noting any changes in light output between the two pictures, the computer identified a blob of light in the 1997 picture that wasn't in the original deep-field study. That blob turned out to be the supernova. The red background texture is an artifact of the process of isolating the supernova.

Object Names: HDF-N, SN1997ff

Image Type: Astronomical/Illustration

Credits: NASA, Adam Riess (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD)


The above montage includes these images:

Supernova 1997ff's Cosmic Neighborhood Image Type: Astronomical Supernova 1997ff's Cosmic Neighborhood Home Galaxy of Supernova 1997ff Image Type: Astronomical Home Galaxy of Supernova 1997ff The Dying Star, Supernova 1997ff Image Type: Astronomical The Dying Star, Supernova 1997ff

All images from this news release:

To access available information and downloadable versions of images in this news release, click on any of the images below: