While the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may be the most powerful extraterrestrial observatory ever, there are limits to how far it can see.
Luckily, JWSTAlready sharp vision is aided by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, and a startling new image emerges.
In the image, from Webb’s NIRCam near infrared instrument, the Cosmic Seahorse galaxy is seen through gravitational lens. The picture shows dozens of galaxiesbut in the lower right quadrant, some of those galaxies, including the cosmic Seahorse, appear distorted, appearing as smudged arcs of light.
Related: James Webb Space Telescope: Everything you need to know
This warp occurs when the gravity of a massive celestial body is so strong, it causes space-time to bend, allowing light from behind the object to bend around it. The specific gravity lens in this image was created by galaxy cluster SDSS J1226+2149, which is about 6.3 billion light-years away Land. The Cosmic Seahorse galaxy is a large, bright spot near the core of the gravitational lens, and it is actually behind the cluster.
The benefit of a gravitational lens is that it not only bends light but also amplifies it, just like a telescope lens. This allows scientists to see extremely distant galaxies like the Cosmic Seahorse, and they can even study star formation in those distant galaxies.
In fact, this is the focus of one program that uses Webb’s powerful imaging capabilities. In fact, the new image is just one of a series of Webb’s images that will contribute to astronomers’ research on star formation in distant galaxies.
“In addition to revealing how quickly stars form and characterizing the environments in these galaxies that give rise to new stars, these observations will demonstrate Webb’s capabilities and provide detailed and rich datasets for the astronomical community.” European Space Agency (ESA) wrote in a statement (Opens in a new tab) about the photo.
“Astronomers expect Webb’s very sharp vision and sophisticated instruments to provide new insights into star formation in distant, gravitationally lensed galaxies,” added the European Space Agency.
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