Hubble captures galaxy cluster 6 bn light years away

"We still don't know what it is, it's all around us, we can't see it, but with Hubble, and gravitational lensing, we can tell that it's there, in all of these galaxies".

Much like the eclectic group of space rebels in the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has some incredible superpowers, specifically when it comes to observing innumerable galaxies flung across time and space. But as rendered by the Hubble Space Telescope, the cosmos appears crowded. Such clusters can contain up to 1000 galaxies, along with hot intergalactic gas that often shines brightly at X-ray wavelengths, all bound together primarily by the gravity of dark matter. Six clusters of galaxies were imaged in exquisite detail, including Abell 370 which was the very last one to be finished. This manifests as arcs and streaks in the picture, which are the stretched images of background galaxies.

Galaxy cluster Abell 370 contains several hundred galaxies tied together by the mutual pull of gravity.

Each cluster and parallel field were imaged in infrared light by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), and in visible light by its Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Hubble helped show that this arc is composed of two distorted images of an ordinary spiral galaxy that just happens to lie behind the cluster.

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Meanwhile, the Frontier Fields is a program that utilizes massive galaxy clusters to examine and investigate the mysteries of dark matter and the very early Universe. Abell 370 consists of hundred galaxies.

The cluster's gravitational pull bends and distorts - and also magnifies - the light from galaxies from the distant, early universe, a phenomenon known as a gravitational lensing. This ambitious, community-developed collaboration among NASA's Great Observatories and other telescopes harnessed the power of massive galaxy clusters and probed the earliest stages of galaxy development.

NASA plans to launch Hubble's successor, the James Webb Telescope, in 2018. These are actually distorted images of remote galaxies behind the cluster. In this photograph there is a galaxy that is more than 13 billion years old, forming shortly after the birth of our universe.

  • Douglas Reid