Technology & Science

Hubble sees light echoes of supernova explosion in distant galaxy

Explosion is the closest one in at least 40 years

CBC News

November 12, 2017

The Hubble Space Telescope observed the light echo of supernova SN 2014J in the M82 galaxy and shown in the inset photos. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

The Hubble Space Telescope captured the light echoes of a distant supernova rebounding off a dust cloud in a distant galaxy.

On Jan. 21, 2014, a star in the M82 galaxy, which lies 11.4 million light-years away and can be found near the bowl of the Big Dipper, exploded in a brilliant supernova named SN 2014J.

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Over several months from 2014-2017, Hubble turned its camera towards M82 to capture the result of the massive blast, witnessing light bouncing off a giant dust cloud that stretches 300 to 1,600 light years from the supernova itself. 

Like a ripple in a pond, the echo effect occurs as light from the explosion bounces off a nearby dust cloud and travels at different distances to reach Earth. 

SN 2014J is a Type Ia supernova, where two small stars share an orbit called a binary star system. One small star in the system is a white dwarf, which begins to collect material from the companion star. After it collects too much mass, the white dwarf explodes in a supernova.

This is the closest type of explosion in about 40 years.

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