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Enormous cosmic lens magnifies supernova

Galaxy warps light of distant exploding star, greatly increasing its brightness

By
4:58pm, January 10, 2014

BRIGHT LIGHT  The distant supernova PS1-10afx appeared 30 times as bright as it actually was because of the magnifying effect of a massive galaxy between it and Earth, as this illustration demonstrates.

OXON HILL, Md. — An immense cosmic magnifying glass has given astronomers an unprecedented view of a distant exploding star. The discovery demonstrates that astronomers can spot supernovas that are seemingly too far away to be detected.

The supernova PS1-10afx, located more than 9 billion light-years away, first appeared in 2010 images from the Pan-STARRS1 sky survey. It shined about 30 times as brightly as a typical supernova at that distance. Last April, a team including astronomer Robert Kirshner from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics published a study that classified PS1-10afx as a new type of ultrabright supernova.

But Robert Quimby, an astronomer at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe near Tokyo, was skeptical. He found that nearly every measurable characteristic of the supernova — including its color, temperature and duration of

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