In the study of astronomy, it’s difficult to predict many things that occur in the heavens. We can predict things like annual meteor showers and eclipses, but predicting other astronomical occurrences, such as supernovas, is something astronomers are frequently unable to do. For example, astronomers may know when certain stars appear to be preparing to explode into a supernova, but it’s difficult or impossible to know exactly when that might happen.
Despite the difficulty, astronomers have a prediction concerning an exploding star they call Supernova Requiem. If the forecast is true, astronomers believe light from the supernova explosion will be visible to telescopes on earth around the year 2037. Light from this particular supernova is seen in three different views in the image above, with the supernova visible in the image from 2016 but invisible in the image from 2019.
The supernova is behind a giant galaxy cluster called MACS J0138. The massive galaxy cluster has enough gravity to bend and magnify light from the supernova, located in a galaxy far behind the cluster. Gravitational lensing from the massive galaxy cluster splits the light from the supernova into multiple mirror images, which are highlighted by the white circles in the image above.
The Hubble Space Telescope captured the image, and scientists believe it took about four billion years for the light to reach Earth. Astronomers predict the supernova light will return based on computer models of the cluster, which describes different paths light from the massive explosion took through dark matter in the cluster.
Astronomers note that each image seen in the 2016 image takes a different route through the cluster, arriving at Earth at different times. This is due to the different lengths of the light path the supernova light followed. Astronomers believe light from the supernova will appear again in the year 2042, but the light will be so faint it will not be visible.