Gravitational Lens Helps Hubble and Keck Discover Galaxy Building Block
This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a very small, faint galaxy 'building block' newly discovered by a unique collaboration between ground- and space-based telescopes. Hubble and the 10-meter Keck Telescopes in Hawaii joined forces, using a galaxy cluster which acts as gravitational lens to detect what scientists believe is one of the smallest very distant objects ever found.
The galaxy cluster Abell 2218 was used by a team of European and American astronomers led by Richard Ellis (Caltech) in their systematic search for intrinsically faint distant star-forming systems. Without help from Abell 2218's exceptional magnifying power to make objects appear about 30 times brighter, the galaxy building block would have been undetectable.
In the image to the right, the object is seen distorted into two nearly identical, very red 'images' by the gravitational lens. The image pair represents the magnified result of a single background object gravitationally lensed by Abell 2218 and viewed at a distance of 13.4 billion light-years. The intriguing object contains only one million stars, far fewer than a mature galaxy, and scientists believe it is very young. Such young star-forming systems of low mass at early cosmic times are likely to be the objects from which present-day galaxies have formed.
In the image to the left, the full overview of the galaxy cluster Abell 2218 is seen. This image was taken by Hubble in 1999 at the completion of Hubble Servicing Mission 3A.