Astronomers are often at a loss when making space-related discoveries, but the picture above is from NASAThe Hubble Telescope did just that. Of all the tools we use to explore outer space, Hubble has repeatedly proven to be one of the best. Over the years, this 31-year-old telescope has made countless discoveries, whether it is answering questions about our solar system or investigating galaxies millions of light-years away.
In 2021 alone, Hubble has achieved a lot. It caught a big “eye” in the middle of a constellation, learned new information about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, and even discovered a “ghost” galaxy with no dark matter at all. Despite the panic earlier this year, all of this happened-Hubble was offline for a month due to an annoying computer malfunction.
NASA has just shared one of Hubble’s latest discoveries, and it may be one of the most troublesome discoveries of the year. Looking at the photo above, it seems normal at first glance. The picture shows a large group of galaxies deep in space, with Hubble focusing on two of them. The first, labeled “Single Image”, is an ordinary galaxy with a bright center and many stars surrounding it. What is interesting is that galaxies are marked as “mirror”. Not only does it look like a galaxy mirroring itself, but it is also a copy of the “single image” galaxy above it. In other words, there were three sightings in the same galaxy without obvious reasons.After the first discovery of the “double” galaxy in 2013, astronomer Timothy Hamilton admitted that he and his team “Really stumped.”
If the existence of three instances of the exact same galaxy sounds impossible, it is because it does exist. What is really happening here is the so-called “gravitational lensing”-a visual technique that occurs when a large amount of matter distorts the light from other galaxies. Gravitational lensing is quite a famous thing today, but it was not the case when Hamilton discovered these confusing galaxies in 2013.
In this special case, NASA explained the lens as follows: “The precise alignment between the background galaxy and the foreground galaxy cluster produces a double-magnified copy of the same image of the remote galaxy. This rare phenomenon occurs because the background galaxy crosses the ripples in the spatial structure.” Another way of thinking is like a wave-like reflection in a swimming pool. When the afternoon sun shines on the outdoor swimming pool, the light from the sun will reflect on the bottom of the pool in whirlpool-like waves. As Richard Griffiths of the University of Hawaii explained, “The ripples on the surface act as part of the lens, focusing the sunlight into a bright wavy pattern at the bottom.”
This is basically what happened in the image at the top of this article, albeit on a much larger scale. Ripples in space are absorbing light from a monolithic galaxy, amplifying and distorting it, and this is what the mirror galaxy sees. This is a great simplification of all the science and research that got this answer, but this is how the photo is ultimately interpreted. If anything, this is a good reminder of how much space we still need to learn. In just 8 years, astronomers never understood this photo to explain it logically. In the next 8 years, 16 years, or 32 years, who knows what other mysteries will be answered.
Next: This Hubble photo is incredible, you will swear it is fake
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