Hubble captures galaxy cluster 6 bn light years away

Credit NASA ESA and M. Mutchler
Credit NASA ESA and M. Mutchler
Author

06 May, 2017

The effect can be seen as a series of streaks and arcs curving around the center of the image. Project organizers combined the powers of NASA's largest observatories with other large telescopes to study galactic clusters and galaxy formation.

In the above interview, Hubble Space Telescope Deputy Project Manager Jim Jeletic tells our Burton Fitzsimmons how the gravitational lensing effect works and also discusses the future of Hubble, arguably the most famous scientific instrument ever built by humans. Abell 370 is one of the very first galaxy clusters in which astronomers observed the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, the warping of spacetime by the cluster's gravitational field that distorts the light from galaxies lying far behind it.

Hubble's newest and final "frontier field" image shows just how vast and crowded our universe is.

NASA plans to launch Hubble's successor, the James Webb Telescope, in 2018.

This composite view from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys shows hundreds of galaxies in the cluster, which is 6 billion light-years away in the constellation Cetus.

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Astronomers estimate the Dragon's contours are formed by a solitary, faraway spiral galaxy, stretched into a long dragon-shaped arc.

As for the image itself, it took a lot of time to obtain: 630 hours and more than 560 orbits of Earth.

During the cluster observations, Hubble also looked at six "parallel fields", regions near the galaxy clusters which were imaged with the same exposure times as the clusters themselves. Photographed in a combination of visible and near-infrared light, the huge cluster is a rich mix of galaxy shapes. These observations are helping astronomers understand how stars and galaxies emerged out of the dark ages of the Universe, when space was dark, opaque, and filled with hydrogen. From tracing close interactions between galaxies to using the cluster as a lens through which to view distant objects, high-quality images of these clusters provide valuable insight.

A stunning example is a galaxy cluster called Abell 370 that contains an astounding assortment of several hundred galaxies tied together by the mutual pull of gravity.


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