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Cosmic Contortions – Hubble Views Massive Galaxy Cluster Warped by Gargantuan Magnifying Glass

Hubble Space Telescope features a massive galaxy cluster named SPT-CL J0019-2026 in the constellation Cetus that is warped by gravitational lensing. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, H. Ebeling

This image from the Hubble Space TelescopeThe Hubble Space Telescope (often referred to as Hubble or HST) is one of NASA's Great Observatories and was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. It is one of the largest and most versatile space telescopes in use and features a 2.4-meter mirror and four main instruments that observe in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It was named after astronomer Edwin Hubble.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Hubble Space Telescope is populated with a serene collection of elliptical and spiral galaxies, with the center dominated by a massive galaxy cluster in the constellation Cetus. The galaxies surrounding the central cluster — which is named SPT-CL J0019-2026 — appear stretched into bright arcs, as if distorted by a gargantuan magnifying glass. This cosmic contortion is called gravitational lensing, and it occurs when a massive object like a galaxy cluster has a sufficiently powerful gravitational field to distort and magnify the light from background objects. Gravitational lenses magnify light from objects that would usually be too distant and faint to observe, and so these lenses can extend Hubble’s view even deeper into the Universe.

This observation is part of an ongoing project to fill short gaps in Hubble’s observing schedule by systematically exploring the most massive galaxy clusters in the distant Universe, in the hopes of identifying promising targets for further study with both Hubble and the NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its vision is "To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Its core values are "safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion." NASA conducts research, develops technology and launches missions to explore and study Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond. It also works to advance the state of knowledge in a wide range of scientific fields, including Earth and space science, planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics, and it collaborates with private companies and international partners to achieve its goals.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. This particular galaxy cluster lies at a vast distance of 4.6 billion light-years from Earth.

Each year, the Space Telescope Science Institute is inundated with observing proposals for Hubble, in which astronomers suggest targets for observation. Even after selecting only the very best proposals, scheduling observations of all of Hubble’s targets for a year is a formidable task. There is sometimes a small fraction of observing time left unused in Hubble’s schedule, so in its ‘spare time’ the telescope has a collection of objects to explore — including the lensing galaxy cluster shown in this image.

Source: SciTechDaily