This Week in Research: Hopkins Astrophysics Team Find the Oldest, Farthest Supernova

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According to JHU, "the small box pinpoints SN Wilson's host galaxy."
According to JHU, “the small box pinpoints SN Wilson’s host galaxy.”

I am into everything about this discovery of a 10 billion year-old supernova discovered by Johns Hopkins scientists using the Hubble Telescope — the oldest and farthest cosmic explosion ever sighted — except its name.

Seriously, scientists:  “SN Wilson”? Get a branding team or something! The ostensible reason for the supernova’s name is that it’s a tribute to President Woodrow Wilson, a Hopkins graduate… but do you know who else was a Hopkins alum? John Astin (aka Gomez)! John Barth!  Rachel Carson! Wes Craven! Tori Amos! Wolf Blitzer! There are so many exciting potential supernova names in there — but I digress.

The supernova in question was discovered by Baltimore Fishbowl’s official scientist crush, Nobel-winning astrophysicist Adam Riess. Riess’s team is looking for supernovae (and have found more than 100) in order to learn more about dark energy. “The new distance record-holder provides a window into the very early universe,”  David O. Jones, lead author on the paper detailing the discovery, told the Hopkins Hub. “We can test theories about how stars explode and how reliable these explosions are for understanding the evolution of the universe and its expansion.”

Or, as Riess explains it, “If supernovae were popcorn, the question is how long before they start popping? You may have different theories about what is going on in the kernel. If you see when the first kernels popped and how often they popped, it tells you something important about the process of popping corn.” See why we love him?



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