Science

Explained: Why ‘Supernova Requiem’ Will Return In 2037 With A ‘Double Blue Moon,’ The ‘Greatest Conjunction’ And A Total Solar Eclipse

Astronomers have just made a bold prediction—that an exploding star dubbed “Supernova Requiem” will again appear in the year 2037.

It will actually be the fourth time “Supernova Requiem” will have been visible, with astronomers glimpsing the phenomenon three times in 2016 in data from the Hubble Space Telescope.

So what’s going on? And what else is going to happen in the year 2037? Quite a lot, actually … here’s a glimpse of what to expect in 2037—a very special year for stargazing and astronomy:

1. The return of ‘Supernova Requiem’

What: a gravitationally-lensed supernova

When: “around” 2037

When the light from a distant object—like a supernova—passes very near to a foreground galaxy or cluster, something called gravitational lensing causes it to appear multiple times. An effect is similar to a glass lens bending light to magnify the image of a distant object, it was first predicted by Albert Einstein.

In a paper published last week in Nature Astronomy, astronomers have been able to predict that “Supernova Requiem” will be lensed this way in 2037, when light from the explosive aftermath will find its way through the clumpy dark matter in a foreground cluster.

Each magnified image takes a different route through the cluster and arrives at Earth at a different time. “Whenever some light passes near a very massive object, like a galaxy or galaxy cluster, the warping of space-time that Einstein’s theory of general relativity tells us is present for any mass, delays the travel of light around that mass,” said lead researcher Steve Rodney of the University of South Carolina in Columbia. “We will be able to come back and see the final arrival, which we predict will be in 2037, plus or minus a couple of years.”

The final arrival of the light from “Supernova Requiem” could even help astronomers calculate the Universe’s expansion rate.

2. A ‘double Blue Moon’

What: Two kinds of “Blue Moon”

When: January 2, 2037 and March 31, 2037

Once in a “Blue Moon?” Try twice! There are two kinds of “Blue Moon,” the scientific type and the popular definition. Blue moons usually occur every 2.7 years on average, but both kinds will happen in 2037.

The first one comes on January 2, 2037, when two Full Moons occur in the same calendar month (the popular definition—a monthly Blue Moon). The second will occur on March 31, 2037, which is the scientific kind—the third Full Moon in an astronomical season containing four full Moons—also called a seasonal Blue Moon.

The last time there were two “Blue Moons” in the same year was in 2018.

3. The ‘greatest conjunction’ until 2065

What: Mercury and Saturn will appear super-close, with Mercury appearing to transit Saturn as seen from some locations

When: September 15/16, 2037

Look to the eastern sky just before sunrise on September 15, 2037 and you’ll witness the exceedingly rare sight of the planet Mercury a mere 10” above Saturn, just below the constellation of Leo. Come back the next morning and you’ll see the sight flipped, with Saturn 10” above Mercury. From some locations Mercury will actually appear to transit the “ringed planet.” The next best “great conjunction” won’t happen until 2065 when Venus transits Jupiter.

4. A ‘Great Antipodean Eclipse’

What: A total solar eclipse with a totality lasting up to 3 minutes and 58 seconds

When: July 13, 2037

Australia and New Zealand are the places to be over the next 20 years if you’re an eclipse-chaser, with no fewer than five total solar eclipses on the way. After totalities in 2023, 2028 and 2030 there’s one in 2037 that crosses Uluru (Ayers Rock), Byron Bay and the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia and Lake Taupo, New Zealand.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.


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