Artist's Illustration of a Giant Cosmic Magnifying Glass
This diagram shows how the gravity of the massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744 bends and magnifies the faint light of a far distant galaxy behind it, a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.
The cluster's lensing power produced three magnified images of the faraway galaxy, allowing astronomers to discover an object that would otherwise be too faint to see by any telescope, including the Hubble Space Telescope (illustration at top). Each magnified image makes the galaxy appear as much as 10 times larger and brighter than it would look without the intervening lens.
The galaxy resides more than 13 billion light-years away and appears as a tiny blob that is only a small fraction of the size of our Milky Way galaxy. But it offers a peek back into a time when the universe was only about 500 million years old, roughly 3 percent of its current age of 13.7 billion years.