According to astronomers working on the Hubble Space Telescope, a supernova will be visible in the sky in the first few months of 2016. The prediction is possible because astronomers first saw the star explode in 2014 in a gravitationally lensed galaxy, which will also make it observable again next year. Gravitational lenses occur when an enormous object (or objects such as a huge cluster of galaxies) enlarges and distorts the light of background galaxies. In this scenario, the galaxy cluster is so huge that it distorts space and time so that it acts like a huge magnifying glass. Occasionally, these distortions yield numerous images of the same object. Though they belong to the similar galaxy, the pictures we see were not produced at the same time.
This image displays the presence of the Refsdal Supernova. The central circle displays the projected position of the reemerging supernova in early 2016. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/HST
When the object was first revealed, astronomers saw the supernova nearly four times, as one of the pictures was impeccably ranged with an elliptical galaxy in the cluster, creating an extra lensing boost. By reviewing the matter circulation in the cluster, astronomers were able to forecast that some of the photons produced by the supernova are still traveling and are yet to reach at Earth. For this cause, Hubble will now from time to time stare at the lensed galaxy in the hope of identifying the star going off.
The supernova was called Refsdal in honor of the Norwegian astrophysicist Sjur Refsdal who, in 1964, first proposed by means of a gravitationally lensed supernova to study the growth of the cosmos. Tommaso Treu, lead author of the paper which defined Refsdal Supernova, in a statement earlier this year, said “Astronomers have been looking to find one ever since. And now the long wait is over!”