We are now used to seeing beautiful shots of space taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, but that does not mean that they do not still jaw in their splendor – and this image of the galaxy cluster Abell 3827 certainly fits that description.
What you see here is a cluster of hundreds of galaxies of various shapes and sizes, about 1.4 billion light-years away from Earth, with the elliptical ESO 146-5 galaxy at its center – believed to be one of the most massive in it known universe due to its strong gravitational lensing effect (shown by the uneven blue halo).
Light across four different wavelengths was captured and combined to produce this truly amazing image, and the more you look at it, the better it gets.
Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) aboard the Hubble were both used to capture what you see here.
“Looking at this cluster of hundreds of galaxies, it is astonishing to remember that until less than 100 years ago, many astronomers believed that the Milky Way was the only galaxy in the universe,” writes the European Space Agency (ESA) team that published the picture.
“The possibility of other galaxies had previously been discussed, but the matter was not really settled until Edwin Hubble confirmed that the great Andromeda nebula was actually too far away to be part of the Milky Way.”
Abell 3827 is of particular interest to astronomers because it is believed to contain pockets of dark matter – the elusive and invisible mass that can make up as much as 85 percent of the total amount of material that exists.
While studies of the Abell 3827 and other galaxy clusters as it continues, we are happy to just sit back in awe of the scale and quality of the image that the Hubble Telescope has managed to produce here.
The telescope celebrated just 31 years of capturing the sky and releasing an image of the giant, ultra-bright star AG Carinae as it battles self-destruction – a star about 70 times larger and 1 million times brighter than our own sun.
Last year, for Hubble’s 30th birthday, we were treated to a whole cascade of new photos released to mark the occasion. Since the telescope went into space in April 1990, it has taken about 1.5 million snaps of about 48,000 stars, planets and galaxies.
Even with such a large catalog to its name, we think this latest image may be one of our favorites of the entire Hubble Space Telescope collection – and as dark matter research continues, expect to hear more about the Abell 3827 along the way.
You can read more about the image on ESA’s website.