Using Supernovae To Measure Nature’s Cosmic Telescopes

Using Supernovae To Measure Nature’s Cosmic Telescopes

Using supernovae to measure gravitational lensing.jpg

When light has to pass around a massive object, like say, a cluster of galaxies the light path is bent. This bending of the light path creates a magnifying lens that allows us to see more distant objects. The strength of this magnification is being determined by astronomers using the Hubble space telescope. They do this by observing Type 1a supernovae in distant galaxies. Type 1a supernovae are useful because they produce the same level of brightness. So by measuring the observed brightness of the supernovae and comparing it to the known level of brightness they should be able to calculate the distance of the supernovae. By looking for these supernovae in galaxies affected by gravitational lensing they can work out the strength of the magnification. This information is helping astronomers to understand the early universe and distribution of dark matter.

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Image credit:

NASA, ESA, STScI, et al.

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