A rare configuration of cosmic objects has produced multiple images of an exploding star in the same frame. If more images of the supernova appear, the system could provide a new way to measure the Universe's growth rate.

Patrick Kelly at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues discovered the supernova kaleidoscope when examining images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The multiple images occurred because two giant objects, a galaxy cluster and a galaxy within that cluster, acted as cosmic magnifying lenses that bent and boosted the light from the distant supernova. Light rays taking different paths around the gravitational lenses created the four different images.These rays took different amounts of time to travel their respective paths. Measuring such differences could help astronomers to better estimate distances in space and to measure the expansion of the Universe.

Science 347, 1123–1126 (2015)