Astronomers, according to a recent study, predict that the distant supernova Requiem, previously captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, will be visible again from Earth in 2037.
This supernova is the result of a stellar explosion about 10 billion light years away and was visible from the legendary space observatory three times in 2016, thanks to a phenomenon called gravitational lens.
Gravitational lensing occurs in proximity to supermassive celestial bodies that have the ability to bend and divide light, magnifying and distorting images of the objects behind them. In the case of the supernova Requiem, a gigantic cluster of galaxies called MACS J0138.0-2155, served as a magnifying glass and revealed the stellar explosion in three different snapshots based on three different paths that supernova light has followed through the cluster.
The prediction that the supernova will be visible again (albeit not to the naked eye) it is based on computer modeling of the distribution of matter within the cluster, which is about 4 billion light years from Earth.
This final visualization of the supernova will be delayed by more than two decades compared to the previous three sightings as the light carrying the last image must travel through the central part of the cluster, which is also the densest due to the concentration of matter. obscure, according to a note from a team of European and American researchers.
“This is the last to arrive because it’s like a train that has to go down a valley and go up again”
Steve Rodney, University of South Carolina astronomer and lead scientist of the new research which foresees the return of Requiem, we read in the note.
“This is the slowest kind of travel for light.”
The first encounter with the supernova Requiem
The three previous sightings were discovered by chance 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 while searching for unknown distant galaxies as part of an ongoing research program called REsolved QUIEscent Magnified Galaxies (REQUIEM), hence the name of the supernova.
At first, he spotted only a small dot in the 2016 images and thought it was a galaxy hidden far behind the huge cluster and made visible through gravitational lenses.
“Following further inspection of the 2016 data, I noticed that there were actually three magnified objects, two red and one purple,” said Brammer, co-author of the new research, in the statement.
The three small dots of different brightness levels were dispersed in an arc shape around the cluster’s core. Brammer then searched for objects in more recent images. But to his surprise, they were gone.
“Immediately, he suggested to me that it was not a distant galaxy, but actually a transient source in this system that had vanished from view in the 2019 images like a light bulb that had gone out.”
A supernova explosion lasts only tens of seconds. The brilliant flash of light it creates fades quickly and disappears completely within a year.
Upon closer inspection of the images, the scientists could also see that the bright spots were surrounded by dusty patches – probably zoomed-in snapshots of the supernova’s host galaxy.
Rodney, Brammer and astronomer Johan Richard of the University of Lyon in France worked together to further analyze the event. Based on the three observations, they produced maps of the dark matter distribution in the cluster to understand how its gravity bends and distorts light.
In addition to the 2037 sighting, they calculated that the supernova could be visible again in 2042, but that final event will likely be too faint to produce any valuable 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 within it. Dark matter, which is believed to make up the majority of all matter in the universe, is responsible for most of the gravitational forces in the universe and therefore plays an important role in its expansion.
“The discovery [della supernova Requiem] it is the third example of a multiple-image supernova for which we can actually measure the delay in arrival times, ”Rodney said. “It is the farthest of the three and the expected delay is extraordinarily long.”
Spotting supernovae with lenses has gotten easier over the past 20 years and will become even easier with the arrival of ever more powerful wide-field telescopes, such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile or the Roman Nancy Space Telescope. Grace from NASA.
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