Eye on the sky

Watch: Astronomers predict an extraordinary event for 2037

Requiem for a ... supernova?

NASA via Giphy

It’s time to mark your calendar ... for a cosmic event happening 16 years from now.

In a September 13 column in Nature Astronomy, researchers predict that a distant supernova will be visible via telescope in 2037.

But this won’t be the first time we’ve spotted it.

NASA / ESA / Hubble / A. Newman / M. Akhshik / K. Whitaker

Dubbed Requiem, the supernova is part of a large galaxy cluster called MACS J0138.0-2155.

The Hubble Space Telescope snapped an image in 2016 where Requiem was visible in three different places at once.

That’s due to a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, where a space object that is large enough and far enough from Earth appears to bend the light around a background object.

Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

Here are the three spots where Requiem appeared in 2016, circled in white.

Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

And the same circles, only with the supernova no longer visible, on this image taken in 2019.

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Only after analysis of Hubble images in the past few years were researchers able to identify the spots as a lensed supernova.

“It was not a distant galaxy, but actually a transient source in this system that had faded from view in the 2019 images like a light bulb that had been flicked off."

Gabe Brammer, study co-author

Shutterstock

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Requiem’s 2037 reappearance will be the result of light traveling through dense dark matter in the middle of the galaxy cluster.

Here’s a visualization of how that process works.Hubble via Twitter

Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

That fourth circle, in yellow at the top of the photo of Requiem’s galaxy cluster, is where the light is likely to appear in 2037.

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But don’t expect to spot it in the night sky.

Astronomers say only some large telescopes will be able to pick up on the resurgence of light — and the exact date when it will appear is still to be determined.