UH conducts international star study using NASA’s new $ 10 billion space telescope
How do stars die, explode, and release heavy elements into the universe? Chris Ashall, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Astronomy, will lead an international team of more than 30 scientists to focus on these questions during the James Webb 10 Billion Space Telescope’s flagship mission. NASA dollars.
Researchers recently received two programs to perform detailed observations with the new telescope, which is slated to launch in fall 2021.
Exploding stars, called supernovae, produce most of the heavy elements in the universe, such as iron, calcium, and silicon. These elements form the building blocks of life. Supernovae may also be major producers of cosmic dust, but the exact nature of these explosions remains a mystery.
“We may finally be able to understand the final stages of a star’s life, how they explode, what heavy elements they make, and how those elements are redistributed throughout the universe,” Ashall said. “It is truly an extremely exciting time for supernova science.”
The James Webb Space Telescope will have the ability to observe objects at longer wavelengths than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope. Observations at these redder wavelengths, in the mid-infrared, can detect signatures of elements that were not previously visible.
Ashall and the MIR SuperNovA (MIRSNAC) collaboration will obtain spectra with the new telescope at mid-infrared wavelengths about 7 to 40 times redder than what the naked eye can see. Ashall and MIRSNAC will observe two different types of supernovae: those resulting from the death of single, massive stars, called Type II, and those resulting from the explosion of lower mass stars commonly called white dwarfs, called Type Ia.
Type II supernovae observations will help determine how much cosmic dust these massive hydrogen-rich stars produce when they die. Type Ia observations will identify masses of white dwarf stars when they explode. This data can be used to measure distances to galaxies and has been vital in determining that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.
Ashall and MIRSNAC are among the few groups selected to have accepted two projects during the first round of observations of the James Webb Space Telescope. The Institute for Astronomy at UH will be the center of the collaboration, which includes more than 30 international scientists from numerous institutes including Aarhus University, European Southern Observatory, Florida State University , University of California – Davis, University of Oklahoma, and Carnegie Observatories.
UH astronomers will also be leading detailed galaxy tracking observations seen in JWST images. The project is part of the COSMOS-Webb program, made up of nearly 50 researchers from 30 institutions around the world, including the Institute of Astronomy, which will use the Maunakea telescopes to help NASA generate a three-dimensional map of the universe. .