Supernovae are spectacular, extremely bright explosions in the universe. They are considered some of the brightest explosions in the universe. However, scientists discovered a more spectacular type known as the superluminous supernovae, which is known to shine a hundred times brighter compared to regular supernova. On August 22, 2016, astronomers caught a glimpse of the farthest supernova, its light traveling over 10 billion years in order to reach our planet.
They named this event DES16C2nm and it was very exciting to the scientists considering that they only are able to see it with a telescope since the universe is expanding as it is, such that the light from the explosion is being stretched into wavelengths that are visible from Earth. The light coming from superluminous supernovae, the farthest supernova confirmed, can help us learn more about the universe, and what else is happening in the distant galaxies.
“The more distant supernovae we see, the more information we get on those stars.” one of the study’s authors, Charlotte Angus from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, told Gizmodo.
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The scientists managed to spot DES16C2nm thanks to the data from the sky-surveying instrument in Chile. It was scheduled for followup observations to try to detect its light spectrum, which came from observations at the Magellan Clay Telescope, the Keck II telescope, the Very Large Telescope and other observatories around the world.
The discovered superluminous supernovae in regular conditions release mostly ultraviolet light, that is hard to spot on Earth’s surface, because our atmosphere absorbs those wavelengths, Angus told Gizmodo. Fortunately, as the universe is constantly expanding, the light from the farthest supernova stretched into optical wavelengths that are accessible for astronomers to see.
It appeared that DES16C2nm lacked hydrogen, which indicates that it must have come from a supermassive, fully-evolved object. For comparison, a lighter or a less-evolved star would contain far more hydrogen.
According to the astronomers, this object is of vast importance for the future of astronomy. The superluminous supernovae appear to be more frequently seen the more distant astronomers are able to see through their telescopes, the paper recently published in The Astrophysical Journal suggests.
If that’s true, researchers need to learn everything that they can about those distant events. According to the scientists, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, Euclid, and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Telescope may be able to spot more distant superluminous supernovae in the future.
The observed superluminous supernova is the farthest supernova which was spectroscopically confirmed. That means that the astronomers analyzed its light spectrum in order to confirm its identity. However, it’s not the only most distant candidate. Back in 2012, researchers saw two others and measured the lights distances which were both further than that of DES16C2nm, although they didn’t spectroscopically confirm their identities.
Undoubtedly, more astronomical events in the distant universe are just waiting to be discovered as more high-tech optics emerge. Although DES16C2nm could be the farthest supernova confirmed spectroscopically, there is no doubt that more of such events are just around the corner.