A distant supernova has been photographed by the Hubble Space Telegraph in four separate places, after it was magnified by the sheer mass of a system of galaxies.
The light from the exploding star was bent by a galaxy -- a process called gravitational lensing. In this case the galaxy itself lies within a cluster of galaxies, splitting the light even further to create a so-called ‘Einstein Cross’ in which the supernova appears to be split into four.
The find offers a unique chance to study how the supernova and gravity itself works — because scientists will be able to measure the differences between each of the images.
"Basically, we get to see the supernova four times and measure the time delays between its arrival in the different images, hopefully learning something about the supernova and the kind of star it exploded from, as well as about the gravitational lenses," UC Berkeley postdoctoral scholar Patrick Kelly, who discovered the supernova, said to Phys.org.
"That will be neat."
Astronomers said they have been looking for a galaxy like this for 50 years - and only now have finally found one. The scientists said that the light from the supernova probably arrived both 50 and 100 years ago, thanks to different circuitous paths it took around different galaxies, but that another chance to see it will pop up in 10 years’ time.