Scientists use a technique called gravitational lensing to examine galaxies and other celestial bodies that are too far away to see directly. Gravitational lensing occurs when the light produced by a distant galaxy is magnified by the strong gravity of another galaxy right in front of it. Gravitational lenses create multiple, stretched and brightened images of the background galaxy.
Without gravitational lenses, the enlarged galaxy could not be examined. One of the biggest challenges astronomers face in using gravitational lenses to study distant galaxies is reconstructing what the distant galaxy actually looks like from the strange shapes created by gravitational lenses. While analyzing quasars in the core of active galaxies, the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a lensed galaxy with a very strange shape.
Astronomers discovered a pair of bright and linear objects that appear to be mirror images of each other and another strange object nearby. The mysterious objects puzzled astronomers who spent years trying to figure out what they were seeing. Gravitational lens experts helped determine that all three objects were distorted images of the same distant galaxy.
While the scientists were surprised to discover the distant galaxy, it was more surprising that the linear objects were exact copies of each other. This is a rare occurrence due to the precise alignment of the background galaxy and the lens cluster in front of it. The object includes a pair of galaxy bulges, the central star-filled sections of a galaxy, and three almost parallel split streaks.
The linear objects are stretched images of a distant galaxy with a gravitational lens that is more than 11 billion light years away from Earth. The immense gravity of an uncataloged cluster of galaxies in the foreground distorted space, resulting in an enlarged, stretched, and brightened image of the distant galaxy beyond. The phenomenon occurred because the galaxy in the background is on a wave in the fabric of spacetime. Astronomers say that the ripple is an area of greatest magnification caused by the gravity of dark matter.
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