Hubble telescope sees quadruple

Hubble Space Telescope image of lensed supernova

Gravity from a galaxy (box) in this Hubble Space Telescope image bends light from a more distant supernova, creating four images of the exploding star (arrows).

NASA, ESA, and T. Treu (UCLA), P. Kelly (UC Berkeley) and the GLASS team; S. Rodney (JHU) and the FrontierSN team; J. Lotz (STScI) and the Frontier Fields Team; M. Postman (STScI), and the CLASH team; and Z. Levay (STScI) 

The Hubble Space Telescope is seeing quadruple. Four images of the same supernova flashed in the constellation Leo as its light bent around a galaxy sitting about 6 billion light-years away between Hubble and the exploding star, researchers report in the March 6 Science.

The light from the supernova, nicknamed Refsdal, traveled for over 9 billion years along paths dictated by the gravity of the intervening galaxy. By measuring how the light bent, astronomers can measure the galaxy’s mass. Researchers also hope to use the multiple images to estimate the Hubble constant, a measure how fast the universe is expanding.

Christopher Crockett is a freelance science writer and editor based in Arlington, Va. He has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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