SN 2014J is the newest supernova to be discovered by NASA

NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Stares into the Chaos of Supernova M82

SN 2014J is the newest supernova to be discovered by NASA
NASA’s Spitzer Telescope peers into the heart of chaos in Cigar Galaxy M82

Astronomy news (February 26, 2014)

The human journey to the beginning of space and time recently viewed the closest Type IA supernova found during modern times. The new supernova, called SN 2014J, is about 12 million light-years distant in the Cigar Galaxy M82, which is in the constellation Ursa Major.

This image of supernova SN 2014J taken by the Hubble Space telescope is stunning
The Hubble Space Telescope took this stunning image of SN2014J in M82

NASA’s Spitzer Telescope, along with legions of ground-based and orbiting telescopes, are currently peering directly into the heart of this supernova. Spitzer can peer through the dust and other debris between Earth and the new supernova, using specially designed infrared detectors and cameras. Combined with the data from the legions of ground-based and orbiting telescopes, NASA should be able to provide us with a stunning view of SN 2014J.

This image of M82 shows arrows pointing to supernova SN2014J
The arrows show where supernova SN2014J is located. This supernova is already brighter than the galaxy in which it resides

“At this point in the supernova’s evolution, observations in infrared let us look the deepest into the event,” said Mansi Kasliwal, Hubble Fellow and Carnegie-Princeton Fellow at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science and the principal investigator for the Spitzer observations. “Spitzer is really good for bypassing the dust and nailing down what’s going on in and around the star system that spawned this supernova.”

Follow the arrow to find supenova SN 2014J in the chaos of M82
Follow the arrow to find supernova SN 2014J in the chaos of M82

First viewed on January 21, 2014, by students and staff from University College London, SN 2014J is a Type IA supernova, which astronomers believe is a binary star system. Type IA supernovae are thought by astronomers to occur due to two possible scenarios. Either a white dwarf star pulls matter from a companion star until it reaches a threshold and explodes, or two white dwarf stars slowly spiral inward toward each other until they collide, creating a supernova explosion.

Type IA supernovae are important because they explode with almost the same amount of energy and with a uniform peak brightness. Astronomers use Type IA supernovae as standard candles, which allows them to measure distances to nearby galaxies more accurately. Further study of supernova SN 2014J will help astronomers understand the processes producing this type of supernova and determine interesting facts concerning other types of supernovas.

NASA astronomers are currently using the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Nuclear Spectroscopy Telescope Array (NuSTAR), Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer to take a closer look at supernova SN 2014J.

The Spitzer Space Telescope is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. You can read the full article here.

Watch this YouTube video on thirty years of NASA’s Spitzer Telescope

Read this article on the search for life Beyond Earth

Read this article on the images sent back by the Cassini Spacecraft of the solar system

Read this article on the year ahead for the human journey to the beginning of space and time

All images and diagrams used with permission of NASA.