A lot of galaxies need guarding in this NASA Hubble view

May 4, 2017, NASA
Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz and the HFF Team (STScI)

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 amazing superpowers, specifically when it comes to observing innumerable galaxies flung across time and space.

A stunning example is a galaxy called Abell 370 that contains an astounding assortment of several hundred tied together by the mutual pull of gravity. That's a lot of galaxies to be guarding, and just in this one cluster!

Photographed in a combination of visible and near-infrared light, the immense cluster is a rich mix of galaxy shapes. The brightest and largest galaxies in the cluster are the yellow-white, massive, containing many hundreds of billions of stars each. Spiral galaxies—like our Milky Way—have younger populations of stars and are bluish.

Entangled among the galaxies are mysterious-looking arcs of blue light. These are actually distorted images of remote galaxies behind the cluster. These far-flung galaxies are too faint for Hubble to see directly. Instead, the cluster acts as a huge lens in space that magnifies and stretches images of background galaxies like a funhouse mirror. The massive gravitational field of the foreground cluster produces this phenomenon. The collective gravity of all the stars and other matter trapped inside the cluster warps space and affects light traveling through the cluster, toward Earth.

Video: NASA, ESA, and Goddard Space Flight Center/K. Jackson

Nearly a hundred distant galaxies have multiple images caused by the lensing effect. The most stunning example is "the Dragon," an extended feature that is probably several duplicated images of a single background spiral galaxy stretched along an arc.

Astronomers chose Abell 370 as a target for Hubble because its gravitational lensing effects can be used for probing remote galaxies that inhabited the early universe.

Abell 370 is located approximately 4 billion light-years away in the constellation Cetus, the Sea Monster. It is the last of six galaxy clusters imaged in the recently concluded Frontier Fields project. 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. The program reveals galaxies that are 10 to 100 times fainter than any previously observed.

Explore further: 'Pandora's Cluster' seen by Spitzer

Related Stories

'Pandora's Cluster' seen by Spitzer

September 29, 2016

This image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744, also called Pandora's Cluster, was taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The gravity of this galaxy cluster is strong enough that it acts as a lens to magnify images of more distant ...

Hubble reveals a super-rich galactic neighborhood

November 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the super-rich galaxy cluster Abell 1413. Located between the constellations of Leo (The Lion) and Coma Berenices, the cluster is over 2 billion ...

Image: Hubble gets in on a galactic gathering

May 30, 2016

Nearly as deep as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which contains approximately 10,000 galaxies, this incredible image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals thousands of colorful galaxies in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). ...

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 by the cluster's ...

Recommended for you

Dwarf companion to EPIC 206011496 detected by astronomers

September 20, 2018

Using ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), European astronomers have uncovered the presence of an M-dwarf around the star EPIC 206011496. The newly found object is more than 60 percent less massive than our sun and is bounded ...

Video: Net successfully snares space debris

September 19, 2018

The RemoveDEBRIS satellite has successfully used its on-board net technology in orbit – the first demonstration in human history of active debris removal (ADR) technology.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

someone11235813
5 / 5 (1) May 04, 2017
Well if they do spot some shenanigans happening in the 'far corner' of the Universe it will already be over 10 billion years to late even if they could get the info to them instantly.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.