Quadruple Shot: Unraveling the mysteries of dark matter with a multiple-image gravitational lensing supernova

Zoom in on Supernova Zwicky

Zwicky supernova zoom: starting with a small portion of the Palomar ZTF camera, one of 64 quadrants, each of which contain tens of thousands of stars and galaxies, the zoom takes us to detailed explorations carried out with the largest and sharpest VLT and Keck telescopes in Chile and Hawaii, respectively. In the better resolved Keck images, the four nearly identical copies of supernova Zwicky can be seen. The multiple images arise due to the deformation of space caused by a foreground galaxy, also seen in the center and approximately midway between the site of the supernova explosion and Earth. Credit: J.Johansson

Physicists and astronomers have discovered a multiple-lens type Ia supernova, SN Zwicky, which allows for an unprecedented study of the properties of galaxies, gravitational lensing, dark matter and the expansion of universes.

A team of physicists and astronomers led by researchers at Stockholm University’s Oskar Klein Center has taken an intriguing step forward in our ability to explore how galaxies warp their surrounding space with the discovery of a multiple-lens Type Ia supernova, nicknamed SN Zwicky. The results are published in Nature astronomy.

The team, led by Ariel Goobar of Stockholm University’s Oskar Klein Center, has discovered an unusual type Ia supernova, SN Zwicky. Type Ia supernovae play a crucial role in measuring cosmic distances. They were used for the discovery of the accelerated expansion of the universe, which led to the Nobel Prize in physics in 2011. The newly discovered supernova is notable for its extraordinary brightness and multiple image configuration, a rare phenomenon predicted by the theory of Albert Einstein’s general relativity.

Large astronomical bodies act like cosmic magnifying glasses

Under extraordinary circumstances, large astronomical bodies act as cosmic magnifying glasses. These magnifiers also create multiple visible light trails at different locations in the sky. Credit: Nikki Arendse

Within weeks of detecting the supernova at the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory, the team observed SN Zwicky with adaptive optics instruments at the WM Keck Observatory atop Maunakea, Hawaii, and at Very Large Telescopes in Chile Observations from the Keck Observatory resolved the multiple images, confirming the strong lensing hypothesis behind the supernova’s unusual brightness. The four images of SN Zwicky were also observed[{” attribute=””>NASAs Hubble Space Telescope.

Large astronomical bodies act as cosmic magnifying glasses

The multiply-imaged lensing effect observed in SN Zwicky is the result of the gravitational field exerted by a foreground galaxy acting as a gravitational lens. Under extraordinary circumstances, large astronomical bodies act as cosmic magnifying glasses. These magnifying glasses also create multiple light paths visible at different positions in the sky. Observing the multiple images not only reveals details about the strongly lensed supernova, it also offers a unique opportunity to explore the properties of the foreground galaxy that causes the deflection of light. This could teach astronomers more about the inner cores of galaxies and dark matter. Lensed supernovae are also very promising tools to refine models describing the expansion of the universe.


Objects with large masses such as galaxies or clusters of galaxies warp the spacetime around them in such a way that multiple images of background objects can be created. This effect is called strong gravitational lensing. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA

New ways to study gravitational lensing

As scientists continue to unravel the intricacies of the universe, the discovery of SN Zwicky’s multiple-image lenses presents new avenues for studying gravitational lensing phenomena and their implications for cosmology. This is an important step in unlocking the mysteries of dark matter, dark energy and the ultimate fate of our cosmos. SN Zwicky’s extreme magnification gives us an unprecedented opportunity to study the properties of distant Type Ia supernova explosions, which we need when we use them to explore the nature of dark energy, says Joel Johansson, a postdoctoral fellow from Stockholm University and a co-author of the study.


Zwicky supernova zoom: Starting from a small portion of the Palomar ZTF chamber, one of 64 quadrants, each of which contain tens of thousands of stars and galaxies, zoom in takes us to detailed explorations made with the largest and sharpest VLT and telescopes Keck in Chile and Hawaii, respectively. In the better resolved Keck images, the four nearly identical copies of supernova Zwicky can be seen. The multiple images arise due to the deformation of space caused by a foreground galaxy, also seen in the center and approximately midway between the site of the supernova explosion and Earth. Credit: J.Johansson

Professor Ariel Goobar, principal investigator of the project and director of the Oskar Klein Center at Stockholm University, expressed his excitement about this significant discovery: SN Zwicky’s discovery not only showcases the remarkable capabilities of modern astronomical instruments, it but it also represents a significant step forward in our quest to understand the fundamental forces that shape our universe.

Edvard Mrtsell, Steve Schulze, Joel Johansson, Ana Sagus Carracedo, Ariel Goobar and Nikki Arendse

The team from the Oskar Klein Centre, Department of Physics, Stockholm University leading the SN Zwicky discovery: from left Edvard Mrtsell, Steve Schulze, Joel Johansson, Ana Sagus Carracedo, Ariel Goobar and Nikki Arendse. Credit: The Oskar Klein Center

The team’s findings have been published in Nature Astronomy, in a paper titled Uncovering a Population of Gravitational Lens Galaxies with a magnified standard candle SN Zwicky. The publication provides a comprehensive analysis of SN Zwicky, including imaging and spectroscopic data collected from telescopes around the world.

For more on this research, see Supernova Explosion Revealed by Rare Cosmic Loupes.

Reference: Discovery of a population of gravitational lensing galaxies with magnified standard candle SN Zwicky by Ariel Goobar, Joel Johansson, Steve Schulze, Nikki Arendse, Ana Sagus Carracedo, Suhail Dhawan, Edvard Mrtsell, Christoffer Fremling, Lin Yan, Daniel Perley, Jesper Sollerman, Rmy Joseph, K-Ryan Hinds, William Meynardie, Igor Andreoni, Eric Bellm, Josh Bloom, Thomas E. Collett, Andrew Drake, Matthew Graham, Mansi Kasliwal, Shri R. Kulkarni, Cameron Lemon, Adam A. Miller, James D. Neill, Jakob Nordin, Justin Pierel, Johan Richard, Reed Riddle, Mickael Rigault, Ben Rusholme, Yashvi Sharma, Robert Stein, Gabrielle Stewart, Alice Townsend, Yozsef Vinko, J. Craig Wheeler & Avery Wold, June 12, 2023, Nature astronomy.
DOI: 10.1038/s41550-023-01981-3

Institutions including California Institute of Technology, the lead institution behind the Bright Transient Survey where SN Zwicky was found, Cambridge University, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Maryland, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center ,[{” attribute=””>University of Washington, University of California, Berkeley, University of Portsmouth, Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne, Northwestern University, Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin, Space Telescope Science Institute, Universit de Lyon, CNRS-IN2P3 in France, University of Texas at Austin, and Konkoly Observatory have also contributed to this groundbreaking research.

Researchers at Stockholm University involved in the work are Edvard Mrtsell, Steve Schulze, Joel Johansson, Ana Sagus Carracedo, Ariel Goobar, Nikki Arendse and Remy Joseph from the Department of Physics and Jesper Sollerman from the Department of Astronomy.


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Image Source : scitechdaily.com

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