Behold, the most distant supernova explosion ever photographed

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You're looking at one of the most far-flung star explosions ever recorded. Dubbed Supernova UDS10Wil (aka "SN Wilson," after Woodrow Wilson), it detonated more than 10 billion years ago, but only recently has its light found its way to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

SN Wilson is what's called a Type Ia supernova, a genus of stellar explosion that only occurs in binary star systems ("binary" here referring to a system wherein one star orbits another – like the two suns visible from Tatooine!). While astrophysicists debate over how these binary systems form, recent research suggests many of the earliest stars in the Universe may actually have existed in pairs.


"This new distance record holder opens a window into the early universe, offering important new insights into how these stars explode," said research leader David Jones in a statement. "We can test theories about how reliable these detonations are for understanding the evolution of the universe and its expansion."


In other words, the fact that SN Wilson formed over 10 billion years ago, during the Universe's formative years, can tell us not only about how Type Ia supernoavas form, but the cosmic conditions under which they formed in the first place.

The insets featured here offer a closer look at the trio pictured above. The leftmost frame shows the supernova's host galaxy prior to its explosion. The middle frame shows the galaxy following SN Wilson's detonation. The rightmost image shows the difference between the first two frames; the bright spot that remains reveals the brightness emitted by the supernova alone


The paper describing the team's findings is available on arXiv.