The fun thing about astrophysicists is that they don’t only look 4 billion years into the future to see how our galaxy will get smashed up; they also like to look backward — 9 billion years ago, in this case — to see how it was formed in the first place.
Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, a team of Hopkins researchers led by Steven Rodney (and his co-investigator, our fave Adam Riess), found an incredibly distant stellar explosion. That supernova, which they nicknamed SN Primo, is the last remnant of a white dwarf star that exploded 9 billion years ago. Now consider this: the cosmos itself is only 13.7 billion years old. By spectroscopic observations of SN Primo, the researchers hope to measure the expansion rate of the universe and to better understand dark energy, that mysterious force that’s making the universe accelerate in its expansion.