• The supernova was likely to be a red supergiant
  • It was hidden behind Abell 370 galaxy cluster
  • The first image was taken just six hours after the explosion

Space enthusiasts have been fascinated by supernovas. In a rare occurrence, a series of pictures captured by the Hubble telescope exhibit a supernova in action.

A study explaining the discovery was published in the journal Nature Wednesday. It has been touted as the first detailed observation of a supernova so early in the universe's history.

"It is quite rare that a supernova can be detected at a very early stage because that stage is really short," Wenlei Chen, first author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy, said in a statement from NASA.

"It only lasts for hours to a few days, and it can be easily missed even for a nearby detection. In the same exposure, we are able to see a sequence of the images—like multiple faces of a supernova."

The three images captured in a single snapshot by the telescope present different stages of a stellar explosion. The supernova, likely to be a red supergiant, was hidden behind Abell 370 galaxy cluster, reported

The Hubble was able to snap images of the supernova due to an effect known as gravitational lensing. It is the bending of light around the galaxy cluster.

The change in color in the three images indicates a temperature change. A bluer color means a hotter supernova. The earliest image captured appears blue due to extreme heat. As the supernova cooled it turned redder.

"You see different colors in the three different images," Patrick Kelly, study leader and an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Physics and Astronomy, said in the same statement. "You've got the massive star, the core collapses, it produces a shock, it heats up, and then you're seeing it cool over a week. I think that's probably one of the most amazing things I've ever seen!"

The research team found that the first image was taken just six hours after the explosion, while the second and third images were taken about 10 and 30 days apart after the explosion respectively, according to

Based on Hubble observations, researchers opined that the red supergiant was about 500 times bigger than the Sun. The star exploded more than 11 billion years ago, at a time when the universe was around one-fifth of its current age of 13.8 billion years, as per NASA.

Now, the team expressed hope that their study will bolster the research of similar distant supernovas, whenever they are to be discovered.

Recently, another NASA telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, captured the iconic "Pillars of Creation" - huge structures of gas and dust teeming with stars.

According to NASA, the new image "will help researchers revamp their models of star formation by identifying far more precise counts of newly formed stars, along with the quantities of gas and dust in the region."

Image: Artist's interpretation of SN 2019ehk. The purple gas emitted before the explosion created calcium-rich material. Aaron M. Geller/Northwestern University