Astronomers Watch a Supernova and See Reruns

Mar 7, 2015

Image credit: NASA and European Space Agency

By Dennis Overbye

It’s β€œGroundhog Day” in the cosmos.

In the 1993 Bill Murray movie, a weatherman finds himself reliving the same day over and over again. Now astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope say they have been watching the same star blow itself to smithereens in a supernova explosion over and over again, thanks to a trick of Einsteinian optics.

The star exploded more than nine billion years ago on the other side of the universe, too far for even the Hubble to see without special help from the cosmos. In this case, however, light rays from the star have been bent and magnified by the gravity of an intervening cluster of galaxies so that multiple images of it appear.

Four of them are arranged in a tight formation known as an Einstein Cross surrounding one of the galaxies in the cluster. Since each light ray follows a different path from the star to here, each image in the cross represents a slightly different moment in the supernova explosion.


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3 comments on “Astronomers Watch a Supernova and See Reruns

  • Years ago at school, I wrote a short story that had the light from our galaxy, in its various stages, bounce and bend around the stars in our galaxy and the edges of the universe then back to us, which meant we were alone in the universe. πŸ™‚



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  • I put this post on the ols site, about a feasible project to use an ICARUS probe and gravitational lensing to look for exoplanets in nearby star systems.

    http://old.www.richarddawkins.net/comments/886369

    It may be that we never achieve these goals because of political decisions, but the technological road-map is already there for travel to the nearest stars within about 300 years. Scientists at ESA (Interstellar Heliopause probe), JPL (Interstellar Probe to 200AU) and the BIS have various outline projects.
    Project Icarus is divided into Icarus Pathfinder going 1000 AU to examine the Sun’s gravitational focus (550 to 1000 AU out) to improve communications with huge signal gains and to look for amplified signals from distant objects. Part of this would be the development of a Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine using an electrical power source. This type of engine can be considered as a scaled down fusion engine. Several elements of the design are similar technologies to those used in a fusion based engine. This type of engine could also be used for high speed interplanetary travel within the Solar System.

    The next steps are ICARUS STARFINDER MK1 to 10,000AU and ICARUS STARFINDER MKII 50,000AU, followed by DAEDALUS 372,000AU probe

    Unfortunately some of the further links on the old site, are broken.



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