The various fuzzy blobs and glowing shapes peppered across this image compose a galaxy cluster known as RXC J0949.8+1707. Situated at the upper right of the frame lies an especially stunning and intriguing barred spiral galaxy, seen face-on. In the past decade, astronomers observing this galaxy have potentially found not one, not two but three examples of a cosmic phenomenon called a supernova, the magnificently bright explosion of a star as it dies.
The newest supernova candidate has been dubbed SN Antikythera and can be seen to the lower right of the host galaxy. This shone brightly in visible and infrared light over many years before fading slightly. The two other supernovas called SN Eleanor and SN Alexander were present in data collected in 2011 but are not visible in this image, which was taken a few years later — their temporary nature unambiguously confirmed their status as supernovas. If future observations of RXC J0949.8+1707 show SN Antikythera to have disappeared then experts can most likely label it a supernova, just like with it’s two older (and now absent from the images) siblings.
This image was taken as part of an observing program named RELICS (Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey). RELICS imaged 41 massive galaxy clusters with the goal of finding the brightest distant galaxies for the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope to examine.
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, RELICS
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