Infrared Reveals Hidden Supernovas

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Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Video imagery:

  • Interacting galaxies Arp 148: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI
  • Interacting galaxies Arp 148 with supernova circled: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI

Writer: Leah Ramsay
Designer: Leah Hustak, Joseph Olmsted
Science review: Dr. Frank Summers
Education review: Jim Manning
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Various images of space.
Text, News from the Universe.
August 13, 2021. Infrared reveals hidden supernovas.
Astronomers may have an answer to a long-standing mystery. Where are all the supernovas?
Data from NASA's now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope indicate that the key is looking beyond visible light to infrared.
Visible light is blocked in dusty galaxies, but infrared light travels through the dust to reach telescope that can detect it, like Spitzer.
In a sample of 40 dusty galaxies, Spitzer's infrared instruments found five never-before-seen supernovas.
Comparing the numbers of stars dying in supernovas versus new stars forming is an important baseline for astronomy.
Spitzer shows how important NASA's upcoming infrared missions, Roman and Webb, will be to understanding the star life cycle.
This news was brought to you in part by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.