When telescopes like Hubble peer out into the cosmos, they’ll typically sneak a view of very distant objects utilizing a phenomenon referred to as gravitational lensing. This is the place a large object like a galaxy passes between a distant object and Earth, and the gravity of this intermediate object warps spacetime and acts as a magnifying glass. This permits astronomers to glimpse objects which might in any other case be too faint and much away to be seen.
But typically these phenomena end in unusual outcomes, like an oddity noticed by Hubble in 2013 which seemed to be two objects that had been excellent mirror photographs of one another.
Astronomers are used to seeing galaxies that look like stretched into odd shapes as a result of gravitational lensing, however this mirroring impact was baffling. “We had been actually stumped,” mentioned astronomer Timothy Hamilton of Shawnee State University, who first noticed the thing, in a press release.
Since then, Hamilton and others have been finding out the unusual object and have lastly discovered its puzzling nature. They discovered that there was a large cluster of galaxies that was beforehand uncataloged between Earth and the thing, aligned in such a means that it produced two twin photographs of the distant galaxy. The background galaxy stretches throughout a ripple in area created by darkish matter — and this ripple creates not solely the 2 mirrored photographs but additionally a 3rd picture of the galaxy positioned to at least one aspect.
“Think of the rippled floor of a swimming pool on a sunny day, exhibiting patterns of brilliant gentle on the underside of the pool,” defined one other of the researchers, Richard Griffiths of the University of Hawaii in Hilo. “These brilliant patterns on the underside are brought on by an analogous sort of impact as gravitational lensing. The ripples on the floor act as partial lenses and focus daylight into brilliant squiggly patterns on the underside.”
This very uncommon discovering doesn’t solely let astronomers sneak a peek at a distant galaxy — it will probably additionally assist them study concerning the darkish matter which makes up a big proportion of our universe, by exhibiting how “clumpy” or “clean” it’s. That’s vital as there’s loads we’re but to know about this mysterious matter.
“We realize it’s some type of matter, however we do not know what the constituent particle is,” Griffiths mentioned. “So we don’t know the way it behaves in any respect. We simply know that it has mass and is topic to gravity. The significance of the bounds of dimension on the clumping or smoothness is that it offers us some clues as to what the particle is perhaps. The smaller the darkish matter clumps, the extra huge the particles have to be.”
The analysis is printed within the journal The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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