'Cosmic kaleidoscope' captures site of colliding galaxies far, far away
According to NASA, this multi-coloured haze marks the site of two colliding galaxy clusters, forming a single object known as MACS J0416. (NASA, ESA)
Published Friday, March 25, 2016 1:56PM EDT
NASA’s Hubble telescope has captured a colourful kaleidoscope-like image of a galaxy cluster located 4.3 billion light-years from Earth.
The snapshot, sprinkled with swathes of red, blue and yellow speckles, was posted to NASA’s website on March 25.
What viewers are actually seeing in the image, according to NASA, is the site of “two colliding galaxy clusters,” which form a single object known as MACS J0416. The object, located approximately 4.3 billion light years from Earth, is in the constellation Eridanus.
The image of the cluster combines data from three telescopes: the NASA/ESA Hubble Space telescope, which shows the galaxies and stars; the NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory, which captures the diffuse emission in blue; and the NRAO Jansky Very Large Array, which shows the diffuse emission in pink.
NASA says that, along with five other galaxy clusters, MACS J0416 is “playing a leading role” in the Hubble Frontier Fields program, which aims to capture the farthest galaxies “humanity has ever encountered.”
“Owing to its huge mass, the cluster is in fact bending the light of background objects, acting as a magnifying lens,” NASA said. “Astronomers can use this phenomenon to find galaxies that existed only hundreds of million years after the big bang.”