Supernova Research

“There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be.”
-Charles Sanders Pierce
When it comes to science, there are many questions and few answers. Finding those few answers is what makes science interesting. One big question is science is whether or not the Universe is expanding. By observing and researching supernovas, one can decide that the Universe is expanding.
The word nova means new star (Ferris 59). Early in times, a sudden increase in brightness in the sky would be considered a new star. “It wasn’t until these new stars of 1054, recorded by China, and those of 1572 and 1604, made famous by Tycho Biahe and Johannes Kepler, would now be classified as supernova (North 587). Those two famous astronomers, along with China gave supernova its name.
When supernovas were first seen they were considered to be a part of our own universe. It was because “In 1917, Albert Einstein and other physicists believed our own Galaxy was all there was to the Universe- a uniformly dense collection of stars and other matter floating in the void” (1). Einstein was regarded as one of the most brilliant men of all time. People would surely not disagree with the mighty Einstein! No one would challenge Einstein until 1929. It was then that Edwin Hubble proposed that the universe was much larger than our own galaxy. His evidence was that the galaxy light was redshifted. (1) Redshifting, for example is like “the lowered pitch of a fire truck’s siren as it races away, and that the light from more distant galaxies was redshifted farther than closer ones” (1). With Hubble’s evidence it was immediately clear that there was more to supernovas than met the eye. With this evidence in mind Einstein called his theory on the Universe, “The biggest blunder of my life.”
Knowing that there is more to our Universe than our own galaxy scientists have been able to learn many things about the stars. It was this knowledge that lead scientists to learn that the early stars “were composed of hydrogen, helium and a very small amount of lithium and beryllium and almost nothing else” (6-2) These elements laid the structure for the structure of the stars. Every star has a battle inside of it. It is a battle between gravity and radiation pressure that happens when it arises from internal energy generation. (6) Stars are seen everywhere on earth but the ones most readily observed are the exploding stars called supernova (Ferris). It is at the end of a star’s life when a supernova occurs. The stars nuclear fuel gets exhausted and it can no longer support itself. If the star is an enormous one, then the stars core will collapse. This collapse will cause a massive amount of energy. (4) Every time a supernova occurs, it burned its core elements so hot that other elements were born. “Elements like carbon, oxygen, phosphorus and iron were made more common” (6-2). A supernova happens every few seconds. They are long and sought after landfalls of knowledge. (5) “They are thought to not only reveal the stars own fate, but also the universe in its entirety” (5). Evaluating supernovas is a key element in discovering the destiny of the universe.
One of biggest and most supported groups evaluating and researching supernovas is The Supernova Cosmology Project. It is a team of scientists out of The University of California at Berkeley. One of the things that The Supernova Cosmology Project does is to look into distant past by looking at distant objects in space. (1) The objects they focus most of all are supernovas. When looking for a supernovas, astronomers and scientists concentrate on finding type 1A supernovas because “Type 1A supernovas are superb candles, stellar explosions so bright that for a few days they can be brighter than entire galaxies. They can be seen across billions of light years” (1). Finding a 1A supernovas was no easy task until the Supernovas Cosmology Project developed a good method.
“Ground-based telescopes in Chile and elsewhere take pictures of small patches of sky, enough to include a thousand galaxies at a time. The same fields are recorded again