Scientists get a rare view of a type Ia supernova magnified 50 times

For the first time, astronomers have caught a type Ia supernova being magnified by more than 50 times and split into four images in the night sky thanks to gravitational lensing.

The discovery, described in the journal Science, could help scientists get a better handle on the rate of expansion of the universe and shed light on the mysterious, invisible mass in the universe known as dark matter.

“Once this grows into a larger sample, then certainly you can use this to constrain gravitational lensing and dark matter and Einstein’s general theory of relativity — all of these,” said study co-author Mansi Kasliwal, an astronomer at Caltech.

As it travels through the universe, light is squeezed, stretched, bent, scattered and filtered before it reaches our telescopes. These alterations allow us to suss out the nature of the contents of the universe.

But oftentimes, this complex mix of changes makes it devilishly difficult to sort out what’s really happening to a given star, supernova or other astrophysical object.

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