Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

Apr 17, 2014
This is an image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range from cosmic near neighbours to objects seen in the early years of the Universe. The 14-hour exposure shows objects around a billion times fainter than can be seen with the naked eye. Credit: NASA, ESA

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range from cosmic near neighbours to objects seen in the early years of the Universe. The 14-hour exposure shows objects around a billion times fainter than can be seen with the naked eye.

This new Hubble image showcases a remarkable variety of objects at different distances from us, extending back over halfway to the edge of the observable Universe. The galaxies in this image mostly lie within about five billion light-years of us, but the field also contains objects that are both closer and more distant.

Studies of this region of the sky have shown that many of the objects that appear to lie close together may actually be billions of light-years apart. This is because several groups of galaxies lie along our line of sight, creating something of an optical illusion. Hubble's cross-section of the Universe is completed by distorted images of galaxies in the very distant background.

These objects are sometimes distorted due to a process called gravitational lensing, an extremely valuable technique in astronomy for studying very distant objects. This lensing is caused by the bending of the space-time continuum by lying close to our line of sight to distant objects.

One of the lens systems visible here is called CLASS B1608+656, which appears as a small loop in the centre of the image. It features two foreground galaxies distorting and amplifying the light of a distant quasar. The light from this bright disc of matter, which is currently falling into a black hole, has taken nine billion years to reach us—two thirds of the age of the Universe.

As well as CLASS B1608+656, astronomers have identified two other gravitational lenses within this image. Two galaxies, dubbed Fred and Ginger by the researchers who studied them, contain enough mass to visibly distort the light from objects behind them. Fred, also known more prosaically as [FMK2006] ACS J160919+6532, lies near the lens in CLASS B1608+656, while Ginger ([FMK2006] ACS J160910+6532) is markedly closer to us. Despite their different distances from us, both can be seen near to CLASS B1608+656 in the central region of this Hubble image.

To capture distant and dim objects like these, Hubble required a long exposure. The image is made up of visible and infrared observations with a total exposure time of 14 hours.

Explore further: Image: Magnifying the distant universe

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Image: Magnifying the distant universe

Apr 01, 2014

(Phys.org) —Galaxy clusters are some of the most massive structures that can be found in the Universe—large groups of galaxies bound together by gravity. This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope ...

Image: Gravitational lensing in galaxy YGKOW G1

Jan 27, 2014

(Phys.org) —In this new Hubble image two objects are clearly visible, shining brightly. When they were first discovered in 1979, they were thought to be separate objects—however, astronomers soon realized ...

A space-time magnifying glass

May 15, 2013

(Phys.org) —Bright arcs are smeared around the heart of galaxy cluster Abell S1077 in this image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble space telescope. The arcs are stretched images of distant galaxies distorted ...

Looking back to the cradle of our universe

Feb 10, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes have spotted what might be one of the most distant galaxies known, harkening back to a time when our universe was only about 650 million years old ...

Gravitational telescope creates space invader mirage

Mar 05, 2013

(Phys.org)—The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most powerful available to astronomers, but sometimes it too needs a helping hand. This comes in the form of Einstein's general theory of relativity, ...

Recommended for you

Satellite galaxies put astronomers in a spin

10 hours ago

An international team of researchers, led by astronomers at the Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg (CNRS/Université de Strasbourg), has studied 380 galaxies and shown that their small satellite galaxies almost always ...

Video: The diversity of habitable zones and the planets

11 hours ago

The field of exoplanets has rapidly expanded from the exclusivity of exoplanet detection to include exoplanet characterization. A key step towards this characterization is the determination of which planets occupy the Habitable ...

Ultra-deep astrophoto of the Antenna Galaxies

11 hours ago

You might think the image above of the famous Antenna Galaxies was taken by a large ground-based or even a space telescope. Think again. Amateur astronomer Rolf Wahl Olsen from New Zealand compiled a total ...

The most precise measurement of an alien world's size

12 hours ago

Thanks to NASA's Kepler and Spitzer Space Telescopes, scientists have made the most precise measurement ever of the radius of a planet outside our solar system. The size of the exoplanet, dubbed Kepler-93b, ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Mr Som-o
not rated yet Apr 18, 2014
Looks just like a hundred other non-descript images these bloggers/editors trot out. Why not go the extra yard and provide a layered image, or at least one with captions and arrows.
yyz
5 / 5 (4) Apr 18, 2014
Mr Som-o, here's an annotated image that includes closeups of the three lensed systems mentioned in the article: http://www.spacet...408b.jpg
Mr Som-o
not rated yet Apr 18, 2014
A tip of my hat to "yyz". spacetelescope.org is now on my "check-it-out" list.