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Mon Nov 11, 2019, 01:06 AM

Intense Gravity Makes One Galaxy Appear in The Sky at Least 12 Times


(ESA/Hubble, NASA, Rivera-Thorsen et al.)

The smears of light you can see arcing across a new Hubble photo aren't strange artefacts or smudges on the space telescope's lens. Rather, they're the light of a galaxy 11 billion light-years away, distorted and replicated by gravity in the foreground.

At least 12 copies of the galaxy - called PSZ1 G311.65-18.48 and nicknamed the Sunburst Arc - streak across the sky. Thanks to this phenomenon, astronomers can study it in incredible detail.

Gravity, as we all know, is very attractive. It's the invisible and mysterious force that binds the Universe, proportional to mass. The more mass an object has, the stronger its gravity. And it's not just physical matter it attracts; a powerful gravity well can also divert the path of light.

On galactic scales, this means that something with a lot of gravity - such as a cluster of galaxies, for example - can bend and magnify the light of something behind it in the far distance.


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