There is something very strange about this image from the Hubble Space Telescope. If you look closely, you can see two orange galaxies that are almost mirror-like, and seem to be connected by a long thread.
Surprisingly, these are not two galaxies at all, but galaxies, their name is SGAS J143845 + 145407. They seem to be only two, thanks to the way the gravity of a massive object (or objects, like a group of galaxies) wraps space as distant light passes from through it.
Imagine putting a heavy weight on the trampoline, where the weight represents the mass of galaxies and the trampoline mat represents spacetime. Now roll some balls from side to side in the trampoline. Its normal “straight” paths will appear to bend along different paths, much like rays of light passing through distorted space.
This type of gravity, called a gravitational lensing, can be used to magnify light from background galaxies that would otherwise be too far away to be seen in great detail, as shown in the diagram below.
So gravitational lenses like these could be an important tool for understanding the distant universe.
Sometimes this light can be smeared and distorted, as the latest deep-field image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows. These strange, worm-like objects are lens galaxies. When the lens results in four images of a distant object arranged around the central lens block, this is called an Einstein cross.
SGAS J143845 + 145407 appears in just the right place behind a small group of galaxies for gravitational lenses to produce two near-perfect images of the galaxy, with the added benefit of making them appear larger and more detailed.
Light from SGAS J143845 + 145407 has traveled about 6.9 billion years to reach us. This is about half the life of the current universe. The light from the cluster has traveled about 2.8 billion years.
SGAS J143845 + 145407 is scientifically interesting because it is an infrared luminous galaxy, shining relatively brightly due to the high activity of star formation. Studying galaxies like this one can help scientists understand star formation and how it has changed throughout the history of the universe. For this type of work, gravity lenses can be invaluable.
Using a gravitational lens, scientists have recently been able to do this Reconstruction of the star formation distribution in SGAS J143845 + 145407and study the details of the process. They found that the galaxy is fairly typical of its kind, information that can help contextualize and characterize other galaxies.
Webb is expected to reveal more details, but Hubble has revolutionized the study of lenticular galaxies. His observations were the first to resolve details within lenticular galaxies, giving scientists a startling new window into the early universe.
The photo was posted on Hubble site.
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