Gravitational Lens Creates Cartoon of Space Invader

Article ID: 599871

Released: 5-Mar-2013 9:00 AM EST

Source Newsroom: Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

  • Credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage/ESA-Hubble Collaboration; Acknowledgment: N. Rose

    The universe is eerie enough without giving us an apparition of a 1980s video game alien attacker. This oddball-looking object is really a mirage created by the gravitational field of a foreground cluster of galaxies warping space and distorting the background images of more distant galaxies. This effect, called gravitational lensing, can make multiple mirror image copies of the light coming from a far-flung galaxy. It is a powerful tool for seeing remote galaxies that otherwise would not be observable by Hubble because they are too dim and far away. In this Hubble photo a background spiral galaxy is warped into an image that resembles a cartoon of a simulated space invader. The foreground massive cluster, called Abell 68, lies 2 billion light-years away. The brightened and stretched lensed images come from galaxies far behind it.

Newswise — The gravitational field surrounding this massive cluster of galaxies, Abell 68, acts as a natural lens in space to brighten and magnify the light coming from very distant background galaxies.

Like a funhouse mirror, lensing creates a fantasy landscape of arc-like images and mirror images of background galaxies. The foreground cluster is 2 billion light-years away, and the lensed images come from galaxies far behind it.

In this photo, the image of a spiral galaxy at upper left has been stretched and mirrored into a shape similar to that of a simulated alien from the classic 1970s computer game Space Invaders! A second, less distorted image of the same galaxy appears to the left of the large, bright elliptical galaxy.

In the upper right of the photo is another striking feature of the image that is unrelated to gravitational lensing. What appears to be purple liquid dripping from a galaxy is a phenomenon called ram-pressure stripping. The gas clouds within the galaxy are being stripped out and heated up as the galaxy passes through a region of denser intergalactic gas.

This image was taken in infrared light by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, and combined with near-infrared observations from Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys.

The image is based in part on data spotted by Nick Rose in the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage/ESA-Hubble Collaboration
Acknowledgment: N. Rose

For image files and more information about Abell 68, visit:

http://hubblesite.org/news/2013/09

http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic04

http://heritage.stsci.edu/2013/09

http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

http://www.spacetelescope.org/projects/hiddentreasures/

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.


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