Hubble captures galaxy cluster 6 billion light years away

"We still don't know what it is, it's all around us, we can't see it, but with Hubble, and gravitational lensing, we can tell that it's there, in all of these galaxies".

The Abell 370 image was captured as part of Hubble's Frontier Fields program, which has produced the deepest observations made yet, of massive galaxy clusters along with the distant, older galaxies that lie behind them.

In the above interview, Hubble Space Telescope Deputy Project Manager Jim Jeletic tells our Burton Fitzsimmons how the gravitational lensing effect works and also discusses the future of Hubble, arguably the most famous scientific instrument ever built by humans. This gravitational lensing effect is the best tool for finding and studying one of nature's biggest secrets, something called dark matter.

Six clusters of galaxies - Abell 370, Abell S1063, MACS J0416.1-2403, MACS J0717.5+3745, MACS J1149.5+2223, and Abell 2744 - were imaged in exquisite detail.

Hubble's newest and final "frontier field" image shows just how vast and crowded our universe is. Instead, the cluster acts as a huge lens in space that magnifies and stretches images of background galaxies like a funhouse mirror.


Galaxy cluster Abell 370 contains several hundred galaxies tied together by the mutual pull of gravity.

[1] Galaxy clusters are the most massive structures in the Universe that are held together by gravity, generally thought to have formed when smaller groups of galaxies smashed into each other in ever-bigger cosmic collisions.

Each cluster and parallel field were imaged in infrared light by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), and in visible light by its Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). They are elliptical galaxies, and each one hosts several billion stars. Abell 370 consists of hundred galaxies.

Studying massive galaxy clusters like Abell 370 also helps with measuring the distribution of normal matter and dark matter within such clusters (heic1506 - http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1506/).

A Hubble Space Telescope view shows the Abell 370 galaxy cluster. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / HST Frontier Fields. "That's exactly why we call it 'dark matter.' Using an image like the Frontier Field and how it's distorting the galaxies behind it allows us to map out the dark matter". These help the astronomers in understanding how stars and galaxies come into being in the Universe.

  • Valerie Cook