Gravitational lensing in action

This illustration shows a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, which is used by astronomers to study very distant and very faint galaxies. Note that the scale has been greatly exaggerated in this diagram. In reality, the distant galaxy is much further away and much smaller.

Lensing clusters are clusters of elliptical galaxies whose gravity is so strong that they bend the light from the galaxies behind them. This produces distorted, and often multiple images of the background galaxy. But despite this distortion, gravitational lenses allow for greatly improved observations as the gravity bends the light’s path towards Hubble, amplifying the light and making otherwise invisible objects observable.

A team of astronomers has used Abell 383, one such gravitational lens, to observe a distant galaxy whose light is resolved into two images by the cluster. The gravitational lensing effect means that astronomers have been able to determine fascinating insights about the galaxy that would not normally be visible even with Hubble or large ground-based telescopes. Among their discoveries is that the distant galaxy’s stars are very old, meaning that galaxies probably formed earlier in cosmic history than we first thought.


NASA, ESA & L. Calçada

About the Image

Release date:12 April 2011, 15:00
Related releases:heic1106
Size:4000 x 3000 px

About the Object

Name:Abell 383
Type:Early Universe : Galaxy : Type : Gravitationally Lensed
Early Universe : Galaxy : Grouping : Cluster
Distance:z=0.187 (redshift)

Image Formats

Large JPEG
1.6 MB
Screensize JPEG
173.2 KB

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