Have you ever heard of Gravitational Lensing? It’s a fascinating phenomenon, and it’s in action in this observation of the galaxy cluster eMACS J1353.7+4329. Located about eight billion light-years from Earth in the constellation Canes Venatici, this collection of at least two clusters is merging together to create a cosmic monster!
Gravitational lensing is an example of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. This occurs when a celestial body, like a galaxy cluster, is so massive that it distorts the space-time around it and bends the path of light around it like a huge lens. This lensing effect can also magnify distant objects, allowing astronomers to detect objects that would otherwise be too faint or far away to be seen. In this image from the Hubble Space Telescope, you can see faint arcs which are caused by gravitational lensing, which mingle with the throng of galaxies in eMACS J1353.7+4329.
The Monsters in the Making project made use of two Hubble instruments – the Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys – to observe five exceptional galaxy clusters at multiple wavelengths. This multi-wavelength observation will provide a foundation for future studies of massive gravitational lenses with next-generation telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope.
Gravitational lensing is an phenomenon that allows us to see and learn more about the universe than we ever thought possible. With every observation like this one of eMACS J1353.7+4329, we can continue to unravel its mysteries and uncover new secrets of space and time!