UK ATC on BBC’s Sky at Night
15 Jun 2024



STFC Webb Fellow Dr Olivia Jones discussed Supernova 1987A with presenter Chris Lintott.

UK ATC’s Dr Olivia Jones is pictured with Sky at Night presenters Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Chris Lintott.

Recently UK ATC headed to Glasgow's Proven Hall for a special spooky edition of BBC's long running astronomy show The Sky at Night​ ​(which was first broadcast in 1957). 

Dr Olivia Jones met up with presenter Chri​s Lintott to talk about Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A) and the James Webb Space Telescope's role in solving an almost 40 year old ​mystery. Using JWST's infrared capabilities to peer through the cosmic dust to find evidence of a neutron star at the centre of SN 1987A. 

Dr Oliva Jones, Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Webb Fellow at UK ATC, explains: “You wouldn't normally go looking for a neutron star in the infrared as they're incredibly hot. But, in this case, infrared was just what we needed. 

"There's a very thick dust shell surrounding it, so optical or ultraviolet light can't escape the centre of SN 1987A, it's only in the infrared where you can peer through the dust.

"We can't directly see the object at the centre of SN 1987A, but what we can see is the impact it's having on its surrounding material. 

"With JWST, we've observed certain spectral lines that could only arise if there's a lot of energy being pumped into the surrounding gas." 

The episode also features a visit to STFC's Boulby Underground Laboratory and their search for dark matter.

​You can watch the episode on BBC iPlayer here.

You can read an article written by Dr Oliva Jones detailing her work on SN 1987A in the Sky at Night magazine here.