“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” -Lao Tzu

We interrupt the regularly scheduled silliness to talk about something serious.

Seriously awesome.

As you may or may not be aware, depending on your interest in astrophysics, we recently figured out why the supernova PS1-10afx was so much brighter than normal. About 30 times brighter than normal, specifically.

It turns out it’s not a new variety of supernova, but instead a visual trick. Don’t lose interest, the explanation is still awesome. The supernova was so bright because there was a galaxy right in front of it. We couldn’t see the other galaxy even though it was literally in the way. This actually makes sense because the supernova was brighter than the older stars of said galaxy.

In turn, PS1-10afx was being magnified by the galaxy’s gravitational lens, which split the supernova into four images. Meaning instead of seeing one massive supernova we were seeing four supernovas. Supposedly the images all blurred together because of interference from our atmosphere.

If you want to read the article, the link is here.

If you want to learn more about gravitational lenses, there’s a video here.

Just to mess with your mind further, consider this: The light from the supernova PS1-10afx was split by the lens galaxy’s gravitational forces nearly a billion years ago. This means the light took nearly a billion years to reach earth, to be observed by our astronomers (which really should be called sky-entists.) Plus we didn’t figure out what was happening until it was over, and we were able to observe the lens galaxy.

So, because a star went into supernova stage about a billion years ago, and we just happened to be able to observe it when it got here, we figured out a lot about lens galaxies. And now we’re going to use that knowledge to measure the expansion of the universe.

If that doesn’t give you hope for the future, I don’t know what will.

“Isn’t this post a little hypocritical after your complaints about journalism yesterday?” You ask. No, because I’m not a news source (or at least I shouldn’t be.) Also, I talked about how awesome it was first.


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