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.
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.
“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.”
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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqqJjwsl_SQ&list=PL6vzpF_OEV8n6PDm2iiXkqBKQC2iHyrzC
All images and diagrams used with permission of NASA.