Webb telescope captures galaxy three times: Why it happened
The James Webb Space Telescope has captured an image that may make viewers do double-takes.
The shot features a particular galaxy cluster – known as RX J2129 – and three different images of the same supernova-hosting galaxy.
RX J2129 is located about 3.2 billion light-years from Earth in the constellation Aquarius.
A triple galaxy is shown as such due to gravitational lensing.
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Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive celestial object causes enough curvature of spacetime to bend the path of light past or passing through it—like a giant lens.
The mass and gravity of the galaxy cluster is so great that time and space around it are distorted, expanding, magnifying, multiplying and distorting the galaxies behind it.
The supernova in the triple-lensed background galaxy was discovered by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope.
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It has a type Ia supernova. Supernovae are explosions that occur during the final stages of the death of a supermassive star. A Type Ia supernova occurs in the Milky Way about once every 500 years, and NASA says evidence suggests it originates from some binary star system that contains at least one white dwarf — a Sun-like star smaller. The hot core remains.
Supernovae produce fairly uniform brightness, which allows astronomers to calculate astronomical distances. Scientists are able to understand how strongly the galaxy cluster is accreting background objects and how massive it is.
“In addition to distorting images of background objects, gravitational lenses can make distant objects appear much brighter than they actually are,” the European Space Agency said in a post . “If gravitational lensing magnifies an object with a known luminosity, such as a Type Ia supernova, astronomers can use this to measure the ‘prescription’ of gravitational lensing.”
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In addition, spectroscopy of the supernova was obtained, allowing comparison of the supernova with Type Ia supernovae in the nearby universe.
This is an important way to verify that methods for measuring large distances work as expected, the agency said.