NASA spots kaleidoscope galaxy magnified by gravity in new Hubble photo

The latest photo captured by the Hubble Space Telescope features a kaleidoscope image of a distant galaxy.

Sunburst Arc
Photo of the Sunburst Arc galaxy captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. ESA/HUBBLE, NASA, RIVERA-THORSEN ET AL.

NASA was able to spot a distant galaxy using the Hubble Space telescope after it was magnified by the gravitational forces of a galactic cluster. Due to the cosmic phenomenon, the photo captured by Hubble looks like a kaleidoscope image of a galaxy.

The galaxy featured in the latest photo taken by the space telescope has been identified as the Sunburst Arc. According to NASA, it lies about 11 billion light-years from the Solar System. The agency noted that it was able to spot the galaxy through a concept known as gravitational lensing.

Conceptualized by Albert Einstein, gravitational lensing occurs when the light emitted by a cosmic object gets distorted by gravity. In the case of the Sunburst Arc, the light it produces was distorted and magnified by the gravity of a cluster of galaxies located 4.6 billion light-years from Earth's neighborhood.

"This beautifully demonstrates Einstein's prediction that gravity from massive objects in space should bend light in a manner analogous to a funhouse mirror," NASA said in a statement. "His idea of space warping was at last proven in 1919 by observations of a solar eclipse where the sun's bending of space could be measured."

"A further prediction was that the warping would create a so-called 'gravitational lens' that, besides distortion, would increase the apparent size and brightness of distant background objects," the agency added.

NGC 1706
The NGC 1706 galaxy ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Bellini et al.

NASA explained that through gravitational lensing, Hubble was able to spot the Sunburst Arc even though it's located billions of light-years away. But, due to the gravitational forces of a nearby cluster of galaxies, the image captured by the space telescope of the Sunburst Arc appears distorted.

According to NASA's Hubble's latest photo features at least 12 varying images of the Sunburst Arc, which made it look like a kaleidoscope illusion. These images were produced by the gravitational lensing caused by the galactic cluster's gravitational forces.

"Hubble uses these cosmic magnifying glasses to study objects that would otherwise be too faint and too small for even its extraordinarily sensitive instruments," NASA explained. "The Sunburst Arc is no exception, despite being one of the brightest gravitationally lensed galaxies known."

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