Hubble captures galaxy cluster 6 bn light years away

These are actually distorted images of remote galaxies behind the cluster.

Abell 370 is one of thousands of galaxy clusters originally compiled into a catalog by George Abell in 1958. Abell 370 is one of the very first galaxy clusters in which astronomers observed the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, the warping of spacetime by the cluster's gravitational field that distorts the light from galaxies lying far behind it.

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

The galaxy cluster called Abell 370, in the constellation Cetus (the Sea Monster), contains an astounding assortment of several hundred galaxies tied together by the mutual pull of gravity. But as rendered by the Hubble Space Telescope, the cosmos appears crowded.

Now that the observations for the Frontier Fields programme are complete, astronomers can use the full dataset to explore the clusters, their gravitational lensing effects and the magnified galaxies from the early Universe in full detail. The initial catalog included almost 3,000 galaxy clusters visible in the Northern Hemisphere, and was updated in 1989 to include Southern Hemisphere clusters as well.

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Astronomers estimate the Dragon's contours are formed by a solitary, faraway spiral galaxy, stretched into a long dragon-shaped arc.

NASA plans to launch Hubble's successor, the James Webb Telescope, in 2018.

As Star-Lord and his team head to the big screen this weekend to guard a galaxy in the Marvel universe, new images from the Hubble Space Telescope remind us that there are far more galaxies in our own universe without any superheroes to protect them from evil villains.

The Hubble Space Telescope - operated jointly by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) - captured an image of Abell 370 in unprecedented detail, using 630 hours of observing time over 560 orbits of Earth, according to the telescope's website. Gravitational lensing explains the swirling arcs of blue light that mark images of the Abell 370. The cluster contains hundreds of galactic neighbors bound together by their own gravitational pull.

The image is part of the Frontier Fields program, which has produced the deepest observations ever made of galaxy clusters.

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  • Regina Walsh


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