A distant supernova previously imaged by the The Hubble Space Telescope will be visible from Earth again in 2037, astronomers predict.
The supernova, nicknamed Requiem, is the result of a stellar explosion some 10 billion light years away. It was visible three times by the legendary space observatory in 2016, thanks to a phenomenon called gravitational lens.
The gravitational lens occurs near super-massive celestial bodies which have the ability to bend and divide light, magnifying and distorting images of objects behind them. In the case of the Requiem supernova, a giant galaxy clusters called MACS J0138.0-2155, served as a magnifying glass and revealed the star explosion in three different snapshots based on three different paths the light from the supernova took through the cluster.
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The prediction that the supernova will be visible again (but not to the naked eye) is based on computer modeling of the distribution of matter within the cluster, which is some 4 billion years away- light of Earth.
This final display of the supernova will be delayed by more than two decades from the previous three observations because the light carrying the last image must pass through the central part of the cluster, which is also the most dense due to the concentration of black matter, a team of European and American researchers declared in a report.
“It’s the last to arrive because it’s like a train that has to descend deep into a valley and back up again,” Steve Rodney, University of South Carolina astronomer and lead scientist on New Research Predicting Requiem’s return, the statement said. “It’s the slowest kind of trip for light.”
The previous three sightings were discovered by accident in 2019 in Hubble’s archived data three years after the observatory acquired the images.
Gabe Brammer, an astronomer at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, stumbled upon the supernova by chance while searching for distant unknown galaxies as part of an ongoing research program called REsolved QUIEscent Magnified Galaxies (REQUIEM), d ‘where the name of the supernova.
At first, he only spotted a small dot in the 2016 footage and thought it was a galaxy hidden far behind the massive cluster and made visible by a gravitational lens.
“Upon further inspecting the 2016 data, I noticed that there were actually three magnified objects, two red and one purple,” Brammer, co-author of the new research, said in the release.
The three small dots of different levels of light were scattered in an arc shape around the core of the cluster. Brammer then searched for the objects in more recent images. But to his surprise, they were no longer there.
“Immediately it suggested to me that it was not a distant galaxy but in fact a transient source in this system that had disappeared from view in the 2019 footage like a light bulb that had been turned off. . “
A supernova explosion only lasts a few tens of seconds. The flash of light it creates quickly fades and disappears completely within a year.
Upon closer examination of the images, scientists were also able to see that the bright spots were surrounded by dusty specks, likely enlarged snapshots of the supernova’s host galaxy.
Rodney, Brammer and astronomer Johan Richard from the University of Lyon in France, worked together to deepen the analysis of the event. Based on the three observations, they produced maps of the distribution of dark matter in the cluster to understand how its gravity bends and distorts light. In addition to the 2037 sighting, they calculated that the supernova might be visible again in 2042, but this final event will likely be too small to produce useful observations.
Astronomers hope the new observation opportunity will help them gather more information about the distant cluster and the distribution of the mysterious dark matter it contains. Dark matter, believed to make up the majority of all matter in the universe, is responsible for the majority of gravitational forces in the universe and therefore plays an important role in its expansion.
“Discovery [of supernova Requiem] is the third example of a multi-frame supernova where we can actually measure the delay in arrival times, “Rodney said.” This is the furthest of the three, and the predicted delay is extraordinarily long. “
Spotting lensed supernovae has become easier over the past 20 years and will become even more so as ever more powerful wide-field telescopes come online, such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile or the Telescope NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space.
The study was published on September 13 in the journal Nature Astronomy.
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