Measuring cosmic distances is tricky, and astronomers rely on multiple methods and tools to do so—collectively referred to as the cosmic distance ladder.
One particularly crucial tool is Type Ia supernovaewhich occurs in binary systems where a single star (a white dwarf) consumes matter from a companion (often a red giant) until it reaches the Chandrasekhar limit and collapses under its own mass.
When these stars explode from their outer layers in a massive explosion, they temporarily overtake everything in the background.
In a recent study, an international team of researchers led by Ariel Jobar of Oscar Klein Center At Stockholm University they discovered an unusual Type Ia supernova, SN Zwicky (SN 2022qmx).
In an unusual twist, the team noted “Einstein’s ring“, an unusual phenomenon predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity in which the presence of gravitational lensing in the foreground causes light from a distant object to be amplified.
This was a major accomplishment for the team because it involved observing two extremely rare astronomical events that coincided.
The team consisted of several researchers Oscar Klein Centerthe Kavli Institute for Cosmologythe Cahill Center for Astrophysicsthe Infrared processing and analysis center (IPAC), and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA), and Astrophysical Research Center of LyonNASA Goddard Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), and multiple universities.
Their research paper describing their findings recently appeared in natural astronomy.
The initial discovery was made using Zwicky Transit Facility at the Palomar Observatory in California. This facility is named in honor of Fritz Zwicky, the astronomer who developed the existence theory dark matter In the 30s.
A few weeks later, the team observed this using adaptive optics (AO) in W.M. Keck Observatory On top of Maunaki and Hawaii’s A very large telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. Based on the observed brightness, Gubar and his colleagues hypothesized that they were observing a strong lensing effect.
These follow up the notes and photos he obtained Hubble Space Telescope confirmed this theory, showing that the multi-photo lens effect is caused by a foreground galaxy that has magnified the supernova 25 times!
This serendipitous discovery presents several opportunities for astronomers, including the ability to study SN Zwicky in greater detail and further investigate the mysteries of gravitational lensing. As explained by Goobar at Stockholm University press release:
“SN Zwicky’s discovery not only showcases the remarkable capabilities of modern astronomical instruments, but also represents an important step forward in our quest to understand the fundamental forces that shape our universe.”
However, the implications of this go beyond these two phenomena. The study of Type Ia supernovae has led astronomers to realize that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate.
This discovery got the discovery team 2011 Nobel Prize in Physicswhich was divided between Saul Perlmutter (Supernova Cosmology Project), and jointly by Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Reiss (High-z Supernova research team).
Therefore, SN Zwicky’s observations can help astronomers tackle the mystery of the cause of this accelerated expansion.
border frame=”0″allow=”accelerometer; auto start; Clipboard write. gyroscope encoded media; picture in picture; web sharing “allowfullscreen>”.
“SN Zwicky’s extreme magnification gives us an unprecedented opportunity to study the properties of distant Type Ia supernova explosions, which we need when we use them to explore the nature of dark energysaid Joel Johansson, a postdoctoral fellow at Stockholm University and co-author of the study.
Beyond that, it could also help astronomers pull back the veil dark matter and tell theories about how the universe ended (eg big crunch, big rupture, free death, etc.).
“Certified music scholar. Freelance analyst. Social mediaholic. Hipster-friendly web nerd. Zombie buff.”