You’ve never seen a constellation like this before
Your galaxies are lovely, Hubble.
As part of its ongoing mission to explore new frontiers in the vast continuum of space, the Hubble Space Telescope continues on its three-year Frontier Fields program. Its latest target is the distant galaxy Abell S1063, which, according to Hubble scientists, is “potentially home to billions of strange new worlds.”
In an image released on Thursday, you can see the cluster in the center as it was four billion years ago, and thanks to gravitational lensing, Hubble is able to explore galaxies even earlier in time. While such galaxies might have been impossible to see otherwise, gravitational lensing enhances light from the galaxies behind it, leading to the discovery of galaxies as they appeared billions of years ago. One of the galaxies hidden behind Abell S1063, for example, is about 12.7 billion years old, according to Space.com.
Sixteen background galaxies have also been discovered by the distortion of Abell S1063, which will contribute to the study of dark matter and its gravitational pull. As the Hubble team explains, “The huge mass of the cluster distorts and magnifies the light from galaxies that lie behind it.” This distortion of space and time “allows Hubble to see galaxies that would otherwise be too faint to observe and makes it possible to search for, and study, the very first generation of galaxies in the Universe.”
Abell S1063 is the fourth galaxy cluster to be studied as part of the Frontier Fields program, and two more will be explored over the next few years. Even if this sounds like a bunch of Hubble hubbub, at the very least these images reveal a remarkable sliver of the vast expanse we have yet to explore.