Supernovae under the gravitational lens
With general relativity as its foundation, the Standard Model of Cosmology has been developed, a model in which all matter is homogeneously and isotropically distributed throughout the Universe. We know for sure that this is not true since inhomogeneous structures such as galaxies, planets and synthesizers, are known to exist on small cosmological scales. However, on large scales the approximation of homogeneity is very good. Despite this, inhomogeneities such as galaxies or clusters of galaxies, will affect the propagation of light in the Universe by bending the paths of light-rays according to the laws of general relativity. The phenomenon is known as gravitational lensing. The bending of light-rays is similar to what happens in an optical lens, where an image of an object may be distorted or (de-)magnified depending on the shape of the lens.Using the magnifying power of a gravitational lens it is possible to see further out in the Universe, it is used as a natural gravitational telescope. Under the right circumstances this can be something very useful. By studying light from supernovae, exploding stars, it is to some extent possible to gather information on the constituents of our universe. If for some reason this light is affected on its way to us, e.g. by gravitational lensing, we are mislead into drawing erroneous conclusions unless the lensing effects are under control and corrected for. Trying to control this and other systematic uncertainties is a big challenge in supernova cosmology and is also becoming more and more important as statistical errors are being beaten down to very low levels.
Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation
Keywords:NATURAL SCIENCES; Physics; Astronomy and astrophysics; Cosmology; Cosmology
Date of Publication:01/01/2005