The eyes of the astronomy community are firmly on one event this week: The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the brand-new space observatory from NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency, which will be the world’s most powerful space telescope and the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. But that launch doesn’t mean that Hubble will be going away, as the older telescope will continue to be used to capture beautiful images of space in the visible light spectrum, while James Webb will focus primarily on capturing data in the infrared wavelength.
This week’s image from the Hubble Space Telescope is an example of the striking visuals it is still possible to capture with this 30-year-old technology. It shows the galaxy NGC 3568, a barred spiral galaxy (like our Milky Way) which is located around 57 million light-years away in the constellation of Centaurus.
In this image, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures a side-on view of NGC 3568, a barred spiral galaxy roughly 57 million light-years from the Milky Way in the constellation Centaurus. In 2014 the light from a supernova explosion in NGC 3568 reached Earth – a sudden flare of light caused by the titanic explosion accompanying the death of a massive star. ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Sun
One distinct feature of this galaxy is that it was the location of a huge supernova, when a star reached the end of its life and exploded in a dramatic cosmic event. The light from this supernova reached Earth in 2014 and, unusually, was spotted not by professional astronomers but by a team of amateur astronomy enthusiasts who watch for supernovas from their backyards.
“While most astronomical discoveries are the work of teams of professional astronomers, this supernova was discovered by amateur astronomers who are part of the Backyard Observatory Supernova Search in New Zealand,” the European Space Agency writes. “Dedicated amateur astronomers often make intriguing discoveries — particularly of fleeting astronomical phenomena such as supernovae and comets.”