Gravitational Lens Accounts for Supernova Appearing 30X Brighter Than Normal

It is as much a modern marvel in astronomy that scientists even know what constitutes “normal” for the brightness of an exploding star, but that is the case. In 2010, astronomers observed the supernova known as PS1-10afx exploding. However, the amount of light being given off was 30 times what should have been emitted. The sheer brightness gave many astronomers pause as to what was going on with the supernova that would have it burn so bright. One astronomer from Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network by the name of Andy Howell expressed the puzzlement that many of his peers experienced, but he is now pleased with a report published in the scientific journal Science which explains the illusion of extreme brightness.

A team of scientists have put together a compelling theory that states the gravitational force an intermediate galaxy between earth and PS1-10afx has been able to intercept the light coming from PS1-10afx and magnify it. The galaxy is able to act as a gravitational lens which gave the supernova the illusion of increased brightness. The supernova was first discovered exploding by Pan-STARRS1 telescope located in Hawaii. PS1-10afx is a type 1a supernova which class of stars is well documented for the brightness they produce. In fact, those stars are used to determine distances. This is why PS1-10afx appearing 30x what was expected caused such a mystery. Was the science all wrong or was PS1-10afx improperly classified? The theory of a gravitational lens distorting the size would account for the increased illumination.

However, not all scientists concur. Some believe that PS1-10afx is merely part of a special class of supernovas known as superluminous supernovas which are known to emit between one and two orders of magnitude more light. One astronomer from Japan’s Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe pointed out an obvious flaw with the superluminous supernovas theory and that is that PS1-10afx doesn’t show all the known characteristics of those brighter supernovas.

Source material:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140424-superbright-supernova-gravitational-lens-science/

You May Also Like

Avatar

About the Author: admin