Hubble catches supernova’s ‘instant replay’

Image: Hubble supernova
The red circles on this image from the Hubble Space Telescope indicate the three spots where flashes from Supernova Refsdal showed up at different times. The middle circle indicates the spot where it was last observed on Dec. 11. (Credit: NASA / ESA / GLASS / Frontier Fields / CLASH)

Astronomers traced one of the weirder twists in relativity to determine when they’d see an “instant replay” of a distant supernova, and now the Hubble Space Telescope has shown that their prediction was right. They say it marks the first time a supernova observation was predicted in advance.

The confirmation comes in the form of Hubble’s observations of the galaxy cluster MACS J1149.5+2223 over the course of more than a year. When scientists studied pictures taken in November 2014, they identified a supernova flash that had beensplit into four separate images, due to the cluster’s gravitational lensing effect.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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