The James Webb Space Telescope may have captured an image of its first supernova. Earlier this month, the team behind the space telescope shared a set of images and a brief report on the possible transient. According to the report, the team believes they have discovered an infrared transition in the SDSS J141930.11+525159.3 galaxy.
The team believes that James Webb may have seen the first supernova because of 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 dimmed slightly. The team says this is consistent with supernova behavior.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say whether the event was a clear supernova. At least not yet. The James Webb team says it will need more time to figure out if the object is a supernova, but Mike Engesser of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) told Inverse it’s a very good supernova candidate.
Researchers Are Investigating Whether It’s a Supernova
The new series of images released by James Webb isn’t as surprising as the previous photos we’ve seen, but it’s still pretty eye-catching. The image is divided into four different sections. It includes captures from both James Webb and Hubble. The fourth image in the collage reveals the difference between them. Looking closely, you can almost see the possible supernova captured by James Webb.
Yet James Webb was not built to observe such events. Instead it works to study distant planets and detect water and other signs of life. That’s why it’s exciting that it probably captured a supernova image. The James Webb Space Telescope continues to exceed expectations despite being permanently damaged in the past few days .
The galaxy in which James Webb detected the supernova is three to four billion light-years away. The difference we see as a result is simply the fading light of an explosion that occurred three to four billion years ago. When a star dies and a supernova occurs, the whole event happens in less than a second . The resulting fireball can still grow and glow.
The current hypothesis is that James Webb noticed this supernova soon after its brightness peaked. As a result, the transient dimming after a few days can be a strong indication that it is indeed a supernova.