James Webb Telescope spots its first supernova in remarkable new photo

James Webb may have captured an image of his first supernova. The team behind the space telescope shared a group of images and a brief report on the possible transient earlier this month. According to the report, the team believe they have discovered an infrared transient in the galaxy SDSS J141930.11+525159.3.

James Webb may have captured his first supernova

These images show the galaxy where James Webb may have spotted a supernova and an image of the same galaxy captured by Hubble. Image source: Space Telescope Science Institute

The team thinks James Webb may have spotted his first supernova due to the object’s brightness. The object is much brighter than the rest of the galaxy. And, when Webb observed the galaxy five days apart, the object had faded slightly. This, according to the team, is consistent with the behavior of supernovae.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to say whether the event was a supernova. At least not yet. James Webb’s team says they will need more time with the object to tell if it was a supernova. But it’s a very good candidate, said Mike Engesser of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). Reverse.

The new set of images released by James Webb aren’t nearly as startling as the previous snaps we’ve seen. However, it is still quite remarkable. The image is divided into four different sections. It includes both James Webb and Hubble captures. The fourth image in the collection shows the difference between them all. Looking closer, you can almost see the possible supernova that James Webb captured.

Filled with surprises

James Webb's image of the Carina Nebula
The Carina Nebula photographed by James Webb. Image source: NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI

The James Webb, however, was not built to observe such events. Instead, it’s meant to study distant planets and detect water and other signs of life. So the fact that he may have captured the image of a supernova is exciting. The space telescope continues to exceed expectations despite being slightly damaged.

The James Webb Galaxy spotted the supernova at a distance of three to four billion light-years. As a result, the difference we see is the slowly fading light from an explosion that happened three to four billion years ago. When a star dies and a supernova occurs, the whole event takes place in a fraction of a second. The resulting fireball may grow and lighten, however.

The current hypothesis is that James Webb spotted this supernova just moments after its brightness peaked. As a result, the fading of the transient several days later could be a strong indication that it was indeed a supernova.

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