Researchers discover two supernovae

The discovery was made using the Southern African Large Telescope in Sutherland.

Hubble Space Telescope image of filaments in the Crab Nebula created by a supernova. Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

CAPE TOWN - A research team in the Western Cape has confirmed the discovery of two supernovae using the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) in Sutherland.

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) says the team used supernovae candidates supplied by the international The Dark Energy Survey (DES).

The DES is the largest ever search for supernovae - exploding stars up to 10 billion times brighter than the sun.

Research began in August this year.

For the next five years, the DES, led by an international collaboration of researchers, will look for these cosmic explosions, which can be used to measure precisely the growth of the universe over time.

The aim of the survey is to improve understanding of dark energy, the mysterious force causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

The DES will make use of the SALT telescope to put the most precise constraints on the composition and expansion of our universe ever recorded.

The SAAO's Thembela Mantungwa says, "This is a very auspicious start to South Africa's involvement in one of the most important cosmological surveys in the world today."

The University of the Western Cape's Matthew Smith, who led the analysis of the supernovae data, said, "Over the next five years, the DES will discover several thousand potential supernovae. Confirming their identity is critical to the success of the project."