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Frontier Fields: Hubble Captures Stunning New Image Of Abell 370

06 May 2017

Researchers think dark matter is more common in the universe than visible matter, but because it does not absorb or emit light, they have a hard time finding it and studying it. Project organizers combined the powers of NASA's largest observatories with other large telescopes to study galactic clusters and galaxy formation.

With the final observation of the distant galaxy cluster Abell 370 - approximately 6 billion light-years away - the Frontier Fields program came to an end. In fact, all the arcs in this image are galaxies being bent through gravitational lensing. At a distance of 4 billion light-years, Abell 370 is the most distant galaxy cluster in the catalog, but not the most distant cluster we've discovered. Instead, the gravity of the cluster acts as a huge lens in space, magnifying and stretching images of background galaxies like a funhouse mirror. The initial catalog included almost 3,000 galaxy clusters visible in the Northern Hemisphere, and was updated in 1989 to include Southern Hemisphere clusters as well. This arc consists of two distorted images of an ordinary spiral galaxy that lies behind the cluster.

The cluster's enormous gravitational influence warps the shape of spacetime around it, causing the light of background galaxies to spread out along multiple paths and appear both distorted and magnified, the European Space Agency said.

Abell 370 was photographed in high resolution as early as the 1980s, and a detailed photograph of it, also taken by Hubble, was released in 2009. "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".

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The current image of Abell 370 was captured as part of the Frontier Fields programme, which used a whopping 630 hours of Hubble observing time, over 560 orbits of the Earth. The cluster contains hundreds of galactic neighbors bound together by their own gravitational pull.

Meanwhile, the Frontier Fields is a program that utilizes massive galaxy clusters to examine and investigate the mysteries of dark matter and the very early Universe.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of worldwide cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Frontier Fields: Hubble Captures Stunning New Image Of Abell 370