NASA astronomers have captured amazing images of a same ancient star exploding four times in four places due to a rare cosmic phenomenon.
The four images were captured by the scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope and a naturally occurring cosmic magnifying lens.
Jennifer Lotz, an astronomer associated with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, said, “The supernova team was looking at these image and bam, up popped not one, not two, not three, but four images. They were incredibly lucky.”
The researchers explain the surprising images were caused due to the light adopting different paths around a giant galaxy cluster that is located between the Earth-orbiting telescope and the exploded star.
The gravity of the massive galaxy cluster causes the passing photons or particles of light to bend a phenomenon, which was predicted by eminent physicist Albert Einstein100 years ago.
“The four supernova images appeared within a few days or weeks of each other and we found them after they had appeared,” Steve Rodney, from Johns Hopkins University, said in a statement.
The space scientists have been taking advantage of the so-called “gravitational lensing” to enhance the imaging powers of advanced Hubble telescope, while peering farther back in time.
“We think the supernova may have appeared in a single image some 20 years ago elsewhere in the cluster field, and, even more excitingly, it is expected to reappear once more in the next one to five years. At that time, we hope to catch it in action,” Rodney said.
The supernova that had exploded nearly nine billion years ago was aligned by chance with the superseding cluster of galaxy being used during an observation period of Hubble in the year 2011.
In November, the space researchers returned to the photos in order to look for supernovae and came across the quadruple rendering configuration called ‘Einstein cross’.
The object, which has been named Supernova Refsdal, is the first ever spotted multiply imaged supernova. The rare object was named after Norwegian astronomer Sjur Refsdal.
Supernova Refsdal is nearly 20 times brighter than its natural brightness. This is because of the combined effects of two overlapping lenses, said Jens Hjorth, a scientist at the Dark Cosmology Center in Denmark.