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JWST May Have Spotted Its First New (And Old) Supernova

The space telescope has begun to catch transient events such as supernovae.


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockAug 1 2022, 16:43 UTC
A star going supernova, a bright white light expanding ina bubble, amongst the dark backdrop of other stars
Artists's impression of a supernova explosion. Image credit: ESA

JWST continues to deliver and astronomers are eager to share the fantastic new sights the space telescope has captured. In the days just after the announcements, a lot of information came out at once, but astronomers appear to have spotted what they believe is JWST's first new supernova, 2022owj.

The team saw an extremely bright object in galaxy SDSS J141930.11+525159.3, a spiral galaxy 3.7 billion light-years from Earth. The object is bright enough to be comparable with the light emitted by the galaxy, which is what supernovae look like. 


If this is indeed a supernova, it is past its peak and on the way to getting dimmer. But JWST's unique capabilities will allow the observatory to track such objects for quite some time.

In fact, while 2022owj is a candidate supernova, JWST has undoubtedly spotted a supernova, but one that is a few years old. 

In the spectacular image of galaxy M74, collected as part of the PHANG Survey and processed by Judy Schmidt, the Mid-infrared instrument on the telescope missed the site of a previously supernova by just a few pixels. But the near-infrared instrument caught it.

So JWST has delivered its first observation of SN 2013ej, a type II supernova caused by the collapse of a massive star in on itself. It created such a bright event that in the Hubble images from 2013 – when its light reached us – it outshines its host galaxy.

It is nothing but a small dot in JWST's image as it has been dimming for nine years but the fact that the new observatory can still spot it tells us that transient events old and new might be tracked for a longer time using this observatory.

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