Thanks to the naturally occurring cosmic magnifying lens, the astronomers got an opportunity to observe a rare quadruple image of an exploding star. The Hubble Space Telescope captured four versions of a supernova as the light took multiple paths around a huge galaxy situated between the explosion and Hubble. The gravity of the galaxy cluster led to the bending of light around it. It was predicted by Albert Einstein that light would undergo such effects while travelling through space. The quadruple image formed by the light bending effect has been termed as “Einstein Cross,” and the term was first introduced when a quasar produced multiple images.
Gravitational lensing, as the effect is called, has helped the scientists to spot a number of celestial bodies over time. With the help of light’s behavior, the astronomers will also be able to determine the extent of dark matter distribution in the area which caused the lensing effect. Although dark matter is visually undetectable, scientists opine that it is responsible for most of the universe’s mass. Patrick Kelly of the University of California has mentioned that Hubble technicians “will then be able to adjust their models to more accurately re-create the landscape of dark matter, which dictates the light travel time.”
According to the researchers, the supernova exploded about 9 billion years ago and now its light is finally reaching Earth. The galaxy cluster which caused the lensing effect is situated about 5 billion light-years away. The supernova has been named as Supernova Refsdal after Norwegian astronomer Sjur Refsdal. It is the first time any supernova has been spotted through multiple images discovered at the same time. Steve Rodney of Johns Hopkins University stated “The supernova’s image is expected to reappear once more in the next one to five years. At that time, we hope to catch it in action.”