Supernova Reveals Dark Energy Breakthrough


Supernova is a rare phenomenon according to astronomers, but the explosion of a star has the ability to reveal breakthrough information with regard to dark energy. On January 21, a group of astronomy students at the University of London discovered a star explosion in Messier 82, a galaxy in the proximity of Milky Way. During a 10-minute telescope lesson, astronomer Steve Fossey and his undergraduate class spotted a supernova. Along with his team of students, Fossey caught a glimpse of star SN2014J before it reached its maximum brightness and exploded.

“One minute we’re eating pizza, the five minutes later we’ve helped to discover a supernova,” Tom Wright, one of Fossey’s students said.

This supernova reveals breakthrough information related to the dark energy which could be accelerating the universe’s expansion. SN2014J’s  small distance from the Earth, namely 12 million light-years could help scientists to have a better understanding of the galaxies and its nature could lead to a new interpretation to scientific data. According to Neil Gehrels, an astrophysicist specializing in the field of Gamma-ray astronomy, detecting and immortalizing “new supernova discoveries is often the weak link in obtaining rapid observations.” SN2014J is the first supernova in 27 years that can offer valuable information related to dark energy, a property of space which could determine the fate of cosmos. Astronomers can use this supernova as guidance while searching for dark energy, that can only be observed when compared to the brightness of a star’s explosion which generates five billion times more light than the sun.

According to Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait, although the remainings of the supernova are not so clear at the moment, its light should be visible for the next two weeks, thus offering astronomers enough information about how fast galaxies are distancing one from another. Thanks to the star’s explosion, scientists can analyze the existent data and reach consensus with regard to how the world appeared.

“We have a complete inventory of the universe and it makes no sense,” Sean Carroll, cosmologist at California Institute of Technology said.

Sn2014J’s recent explosion reveals not only a possible dark energy breakthrough, but also the imminent explosion of a supergiant star which lies about 430 light-years from Earth. According to astronomers, this star named Betelgeuse is approximately 15 times the mass of the sun and while specialists cannot predict the time of its explosions, it will shine for weeks or months, thus allowing them to analyze the dark energy that surrounds the galaxies. The International Astronomical Union has already confirmed the supernova’s explosion which astronomers categorize as a white dwarf star which gathers matter until “it becomes unstable and explodes.”

Supernova 2014J is the first stellar explosion in 27 years that can reveal relevant information about dark energy and bring astronomers closer to a scientific breakthrough depicted by Albert Einstein and Galileo Galilei. The supernova can still be seen for a few more days and its position is above the Big Dipper, in the M82 galaxy. Its brightness has faded considerably, so SN2014J can only be seen with the help of binoculars.

By Gabriela Motroc


International Business Times

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