Pandora’s Magnifying Glass: First Image From Hubble’s Frontier Fields


Image credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz, M. Mountain, A. Koekemoer, and the HFF Team (STScI)

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz, M. Mountain, A. Koekemoer, and the HFF Team (STScI)

Astronomers previously observed Abell 2744 with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope back in 2011, exploring the cluster’s history. They found that at least four galaxy clusters had crashed into one another to form Abell 2744, causing some weird and wonderful effects. This mix of cosmic phenomena, some of which had never been seen before, led to the nickname of Pandora’s Cluster.

A mix of hazy elliptical galaxies and colourful spirals can be seen clumping together in the centre of this image. The effects of the cluster’s gravity can be seen in the blue arcs and distorted shapes that are scattered across the frame, including galaxies that seem to be bleeding into the surrounding space. The arcs are actually the distorted images of galaxies far in the distance.

Abell 2744 is the first of six targets for an observing programme known as Frontier Fields. This three-year, 840-orbit programme [1] will yield our deepest views of the Universe to date, using the power of Hubble to explore more distant regions of space than could otherwise be seen, by observing gravitational lensing effects around six different galaxy clusters.

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