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‘Standard candle’ supernova extraordinarily magnified by gravitational lensing

Posted on April 25, 2013
Figure 1: Schematic illustration of the magnification of PS1-10afx. A massive object between us and the supernova bends light rays much as a glass lens can focus light. As more light rays are directed toward the observer than would be without the lens, the supernova appears magnified. Credit: Kavli IPMU

Figure 1: Schematic illustration of the magnification of PS1-10afx. A massive object between us and the supernova bends light rays much as a glass lens can focus light. As more light rays are directed toward the observer than would be without the lens, the supernova appears magnified. Credit: Kavli IPMU

A team of researchers at the Kavli IPMU led by Robert Quimby has identified what may prove to be the first ever Type Ia supernova (SNIa) magnified by a strong gravitational lens. In this work, the ‘standard candle’ property of Type Ia supernovae is used to directly measure the magnification due to gravitational lensing. This provides the first glimpse of the science that will soon come out of dark matter and dark energy studies derived from deep, wide-field imaging surveys.

The supernova, named PS1-10afx, was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System 1 (Pan-STARRS1). PS1-10afx exploded over 9 billion years ago, which places it far further than typical Pan-STARRS1 discoveries. Based on this distance and its relatively bright appearance, the Pan-STARRS1 team concluded that PS1-10afx was intrinsically very luminous. The inferred luminosity, about 100 billion times greater than our Sun, is comparable to members of a new, rare variety of superluminous supernovae (SLSNe), but that is where the similarities end.

SLSNe typically have blue colors, and their brightness changes relatively slowly with time. PS1-10afx on the other hand was rather red even after correcting for its redshift, and its brightness changed as fast as normal supernovae. There is no known physical model that can explain how a supernova could simultaneously be so luminous, so red, and so fast.

Read more at: Phys.org

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