A supernova to explode around the year 2037

Rerun of Supernova Blast.

Making predictions in the field of astronomy is quite challenging. Astronomers need to rely on telescope data, the timing of upcoming lunar and solar eclipses, and the clockwork return of some comets.

Recently astronomers predicted an astronomical event that will happen around the year 2037. While looking far beyond the solar system, astronomers have added a solid prediction of a supernova event of a star called Supernova Requiem.

However, it won’t be visible to the naked eye, but some telescopes are expected to spot it.

The three lensed supernova images, seen as tiny dots captured in a single Hubble snapshot, represent light from the explosive aftermath. The dots vary in brightness and color, which signify three different phases of the fading blast as it cooled over time.

Lead researcher Steve Rodney of the University of South Carolina in Columbia said, “This discovery is the third example of multiply imaged supernova for which we can measure the delay in arrival times. It is the most distant of the three, and the predicted delay is extraordinarily long. We will be able to come back and see the final arrival, which we predict will be in 2037, plus or minus a couple of years.”

The future appearance will be the fourth-known view of the same supernova. Three images of the supernova were first found from archival data taken in 2016 by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

These previous images were seen as tiny dots in a single Hubble snapshot. All dots have different colors, signifying three distinct phases of the fading blast as it cooled over time.

Lead researcher Steve Rodney of the University of South Carolina in Columbia said, “This discovery is the third example of multiply imaged supernova for which we can measure the delay in arrival times. It is the most distant of the three, and the predicted delay is extraordinarily long. We will be able to come back and see the final arrival, which we predict will be in 2037, plus or minus a couple of years.”

Scientists made the prediction based on computer models of the cluster. The models described several paths the supernova light takes through the maze of clumpy dark matter in the galactic grouping.

The light from the cluster MACS J0138.0-2155 took about four billion years to reach Earth. On the other hand, the light from the Supernova Requiem takes almost 10 billion years for its journey.

Rodney said, “The lensed supernova image predicted to appear in 2037 lags behind the other images of the same supernova because its light travels directly through the middle of the cluster, where the densest amount of dark matter resides. The immense mass of the cluster bends the light, producing a longer time delay. This is the last one to arrive because it’s like the train that has to go deep down into a valley and climb back out again. That’s the slowest kind of trip for light.”

Gabe Brammer discovered the lensed supernova images in 2019 by Gabe Brammer, a study co-author at the Cosmic Dawn Center at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, in Denmark. Brammer spotted the mirrored supernova images while analyzing distant galaxies magnified by massive foreground galaxy clusters as part of an ongoing Hubble program called REsolved QUIEscent Magnified Galaxies (REQUIEM).

A red object caught scientists ‘ attention while comparing new REQUIEM data with archival images taken in 2016. At first, the object was believed to be a far-flung galaxy. Later, it disappeared in 2019 images.

Rodney said, “But then, on further inspection of the 2016 data, I noticed there were three magnified objects, two red and a purple. Each of the three objects was paired with a lensed image of a distant massive galaxy. Immediately it suggested to me that it was not a distant galaxy but a transient source in this system that had faded from view in the 2019 images like a light bulb that had been flicked off.”

For further analysis, scientists arranged the lensed supernova images in an arc around the cluster’s core. They appear as small dots near the smeared orange features that are thought to be the magnified snapshots of the supernova’s host galaxy.

Catching the event will help astronomers measure the time delays between all four supernova images. This will offer clues to the type of warped-space terrain the exploded star’s light had to cover.

Rodney said, “This time-delay method is valuable because it’s a more direct way of measuring the universe’s expansion rate. These long-time delays are particularly valuable because you can get a good, precise measurement of that time delay if you are just patient and wait years, in this case, more than a decade, for the final image to return. It is a completely independent path to calculate the universe’s expansion rate. The real value in the future will be using a larger sample of these to improve the precision.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Rodney, S.A. et al. A gravitationally lensed supernova with an observable two-decade time delay. Nat Astron (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01450-9

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