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Gravitational Lensing: Untangling an Image

2 Feb 2018, 18:17 UTC
Gravitational Lensing: Untangling an Image
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The behavior of distant galaxies may tell us much about our own Milky Way’s evolution, as well as alerting us to the differing outcomes possible as galaxies mature. This morning we look at a galaxy labeled eMACSJ1341-QG-1, one that puts on display the phenomenon of gravitational lensing. We may one day use the distortion of spacetime caused by massive objects much closer to home to study nearby stars and their planets, assuming we can learn to exploit the natural gravitational lensing effect that occurs at 550 AU from the Sun.
But back to the galactic perspective. Lined up with a massive galaxy cluster called eMACSJ1341.9-2441, the light from the much more distant galaxy is magnified by 30 times as the gravity of the intervening cluster — its presumed dark matter, gas and thousands of individual galaxies — distorts spacetime. Gravitational lensing was confirmed during a solar eclipse in 1919, when background stars were found to be offset in precisely the way Albert Einstein had predicted. Astronomers now rely on such lensing to produce information about objects that would otherwise be all but invisible.

Image: The quiescent galaxy eMACSJ1341-QG-1 as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. The yellow dotted line traces ...

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