NASA’s venerable space telescope sees double in a stunning new image of a distant galaxy.
The new image of The Hubble Space Telescope captures a galaxy named SGAS J143845+145407, located in the northern constellation of Boötes – one of the largest constellations in the sky. The mirror image of the galaxy at the center of this new photo is the result of strong gravitational lenswhich is an astronomical phenomenon that can distort, magnify or even duplicate the appearance of distant galaxies.
“Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive celestial body – such as a cluster of galaxies – causes spacetime to bend enough to cause the path of light around it to be visibly bent, as though by a lens” , according A declaration of the European Space Agency (ESA). “Appropriately, the body causing the light to bend is called a gravitational lens, and the distorted background object is called a ‘lens’.”
In the center of the new Hubble image, bright light emanating from SGAS J143845+145407 appears as an arc or ring around each side of the object that lies between the distant galaxy and the Space Telescope. The image also captures several other galaxies and celestial objects dispersed in space.
Hubble is equipped with sensitive science instruments that allow it to capture faint and distant gravitational lenses that ground-based telescopes are unable to detect due to blurring caused by earth’s atmosphere.
The gravitational lens also allows astronomers to observe objects that would otherwise be too distant or too faint to see. The distortion caused by the foreground object acts like a natural magnifying glass, zooming in on more distant celestial objects. Hubble is able to capture light from these more distant objects to determine their shape and internal structure, according to the ESA statement.
The recent image of the galaxy SGAS J143845+145407 was taken as part of a larger Hubble initiative to study the galaxies of the primitive universe using the gravitational lens to examine galaxies up close.
“The lens reveals details about distant galaxies that would otherwise be unobtainable, and it allows astronomers to determine star formation in early galaxies,” ESA officials said in the statement. “This gives scientists better insight into how the overall evolution of galaxies has unfolded.”