• An Erratum to this article was published on 19 March 1998


The ultimate fate of the Universe, infinite expansion or a big crunch, can be determined by using the redshifts and distances of very distant supernovae to monitor changes in the expansion rate. We can now find1 large numbers of these distant supernovae, and measure their redshifts and apparent brightnesses; moreover, recent studies of nearby type Ia supernovae have shown how to determine their intrinsic luminosities2,3,4—and therefore with their apparent brightnesses obtain their distances. The >50 distant supernovae discovered so far provide a record of changes in the expansion rate over the past several billion years5,6,7. However, it is necessary to extend this expansion history still farther away (hence further back in time) in order to begin to distinguish the causes of the expansion-rate changes—such as the slowing caused by the gravitational attraction of the Universe's mass density, and the possibly counteracting effect of the cosmological constant8. Here we report the most distant spectroscopically confirmed supernova. Spectra and photometry from the largest telescopes on the ground and in space show that this ancient supernova is strikingly similar to nearby, recent type Ia supernovae. When combined with previous measurements of nearer supernovae2,5, these new measurements suggest that we may live in a low-mass-density universe.

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Physics Department, Stockholm University, Box 6730, S-11385 Stockholm, Sweden


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The authors are members of the Supernova Cosmology Project. We thank CTIO, Keck, HST, WIYN, ESO and the ORM–La Palma observatories for a generous allocation of time, and the support of dedicated staff in pursuit of this project; D. Harmer, P. Smith and D. Willmarth for their help as WIYN queue observers; and G. Bernstein and A. Tyson for developing and supporting the Big Throughput Camera which was instrumental in the discovery of this supernova.

Author information


  1. E. O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Road, MS 50-232, Berkeley, 94720, California , USA

    • S. Perlmutter
    • , G. Aldering
    • , S. Deustua
    • , S. Fabbro
    • , G. Goldhaber
    • , D. E. Groom
    • , I. M. Hook
    • , A. G. Kim
    • , M. Y. Kim
    • , R. A. Knop
    • , P. Nugent
    • , R. Pain
    •  & C. R. Pennypacker
  2. Center for Particle Astrophysics, University of California , Berkeley, 94720, California, USA

    • S. Perlmutter
    •  & G. Goldhaber
  3. Dipartimento di Astronomia, Universita’ di Padova, Vicolo Osservatorio 5, 35122, Padova , Italy

    • M. Della Valle
  4. Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California , Berkeley, 94720, California, USA

    • S. Deustua
    •  & C. R. Pennypacker
  5. Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road , CB3 0HA, Cambridge, UK

    • R. S. Ellis
    •  & R. G. McMahon
  6. LPNHE, Universites Paris VI & VII, T33 Rdc, 4, Place Jussieu, 75252 Cedex 05, Paris, France

    • S. Fabbro
    •  & R. Pain
  7. Observatoire de Strasbourg, 11, Rue de l'Universite , 67000, Strasbourg, France

    • S. Fabbro
  8. Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, 21218 , Maryland, USA

    • A. Fruchter
  9. European Souther Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2, D-85748, Garching bei Munchen, Germany

    • I. M. Hook
  10. Physique Corpusculaire et Cosmologie, Collège de France, 11, Place Marcelin-Berthelot, 75231 , Paris, France

    • A. G. Kim
  11. European Southern Observatory, Alonso de Cordova, 3107, Vitacura, Casilla, 19001, 19, Santiago , Chile

    • C. Lidman
  12. Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, 21218, Maryland, USA

    • N. Panagia
  13. Astrophysics Division Space Science Department of ESA

    • N. Panagia
  14. Department of Astronomy, Faculty of Physics, University of Barcelona, Diagonal 647, E-08028, Barcelona, Spain

    • P. Ruiz-Lapuente
  15. Department of Physics, Yale University, 260 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, JWG 463, 06520, Connecticut, USA

    • B. Schaefer
  16. Isaac Newton Group, Apartado 321, Santa Cruz de La Palma, 38780 , The Canary Islands, Spain

    • N. Walton


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Correspondence to S. Perlmutter.

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