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Hubble Telescope Discovers Oldest Supernova Ever

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04/05/2013 10:20 AM
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Hubble Telescope Discovers Oldest Supernova Ever
Hubble Telescope Image of SN Wilson, the furthest supernova from Earth ever discovered.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found the farthest supernova from Earth ever discovered, the agency announced Thursday.

[PHOTOS: Images From the Hubble Space Telescope]

The supernova—an exploding star—occurred more than 10 billion years ago and has been named after former president Woodrow Wilson. The supernova occurred approximately 350 million years prior to the former oldest supernova, which was discovered three months ago by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy.

The explosion is known as a "Type la" supernova, which are particularly rare and are useful to scientists because they give off a consistent level of light that NASA says can help astronomers study mysterious dark energy and the expansion of the universe.

[PHOTOS: Spectacular Snapshots of Space]

"This new distance record holder opens a window into the early universe, offering important new insights into how these stars explode," David Jones of Johns Hopkins University and lead author of the study announcing the discovery, said in a released statement. "We can test theories about how reliable these detonations are for understanding the evolution of the universe and its expansion."

So far, eight supernovae that occurred more than 9 billion years ago have been discovered by the team; they have discovered more than 100 supernovae that occurred between 2.4 billion years and 9 billion years ago. The team is trying to determine what triggers a Type la supernova—because most of them are extremely old, they believe stars must reach a particularly old age in order to become that type of supernova.

[link to www.usnews.com]