London, Feb 20 (IANS) An international team of astronomers has discovered the oldest supernova ever detected — a huge cosmic explosion that took place 10.5 billion years ago.
A supernova is the explosion of a massive star at the end of its life cycle.
The exploding star, named DES16C2nm, was detected by the Dark Energy Survey (DES), an international collaboration to map several hundred million galaxies in order to find out more about dark energy — the mysterious force believed to be causing the accelerated expansion of the universe.
As detailed in a new study published in The Astrophysical Journal, light from the event has taken 10.5 billion years to reach Earth, making it the oldest supernova ever discovered and studied.
The universe itself is thought to be 13.8 billion years old.
“It’s thrilling to be part of the survey that has discovered the oldest known supernova,” said lead author of the study Mathew Smith of the University of Southampton in Britain.
“DES16C2nm is extremely distant, extremely bright, and extremely rare – not the sort of thing you stumble across every day as an astronomer,” Smith said.
The researchers used three powerful telescopes — the Very Large Telescope and the Magellan, in Chile, and the Keck Observatory, in Hawaii — to measure the exploding star’s distance and brightness.
More than 400 scientists from over 25 institutions worldwide are involved in the DES, a five-year project which began in 2013.