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Supernovae Not What They Used To Be; Distant Supernovae Distinctly Brighter

Date:
October 28, 2007
Source:
University Of Toronto
Summary:
Exploding stars that light the way for research on dark energy aren't as powerful or bright, on average, as they once were, say astronomers. The study, which compared supernovae in nearby galaxies with those that exploded up to nine billion light years away in the distant universe, found the distant supernovae were an average of 12 per cent brighter. The distant supernovae were brighter because they were younger, the study found.

Using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers pinpointed a blaze of light from the farthest supernova ever seen, SN 1997ff -- a dying star that exploded 10 billion years ago.
Credit: NASA/ESA, Adam Riess (Space Telescope Science Institute)

Exploding stars that light the way for research on dark energy aren’t as powerful or bright, on average, as they once were, says a new study by University of Toronto astronomers.

The study, which compared supernovae in nearby galaxies with those that exploded up to nine billion light years away in the distant universe, found the distant supernovae were an average of 12 per cent brighter. The distant supernovae were brighter because they were younger, the study found.

Since uniformly bright exploding stars help astronomers study the nature of dark energy – an unknown type of energy that causes the universe to accelerate its expansion – the team’s findings suggest it could become more difficult to study dark energy in the future. Astronomers can correct for supernovae of varying brightness, but it will prove challenging.

“The findings do not call into question that the universe is accelerating but the evolving mix of supernovae could limit future attempts to determine the nature of dark energy,” said Andrew Howell, lead author of the study and post-doctoral researcher.

“You can think of supernovae as light bulbs,” he said. “We found that the early universe supernovae had a higher wattage, but as long as we can figure out the wattage, we should be able to correct for that. Learning more about dark energy is going to take very precise corrections though and we aren’t sure how well we can do that yet.”

The paper, Predicted and Observed Evolution in the Mean Properties of Type Ia Supernovae with Redshift, was co-authored by post-doctoral researchers Mark Sullivan and Alex Conley and Professor Ray Carlberg of astronomy and astrophysics. It appears in the Sept. 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Toronto. The original article was written by Christine Elias. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Toronto. "Supernovae Not What They Used To Be; Distant Supernovae Distinctly Brighter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024150023.htm>.
University Of Toronto. (2007, October 28). Supernovae Not What They Used To Be; Distant Supernovae Distinctly Brighter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024150023.htm
University Of Toronto. "Supernovae Not What They Used To Be; Distant Supernovae Distinctly Brighter." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024150023.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

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