The NASA Hubble Space Telescope serendipitous survey of the sky has uncovered exotic patterns, rings, arcs and crosses that are all optical mirages produced by a gravitational lens, nature's equivalent of having giant magnifying glass in space.
Shown are the top 10 lens candidates uncovered in the deepest 100 Hubble fields. Hubble's sensitivity and high resolution allow it to see faint and distant lenses that cannot be detected with ground-based telescopes whose images are blurred by Earth's atmosphere.
[Top Left] - HST 01248+0351 is a lensed pair on either side of the edge-on disk lensing galaxy.
[Top Center] - HST 01247+0352 is another pair of bluer lensed source images around the red spherical elliptical lensing galaxy. Two much fainter images can be seen near the detection limit which might make this a quadruple system.
[Top Right]: HST 15433+5352 is a very good lens candidate with a bluer lensed source in the form of an extended arc about the redder elliptical lensing galaxy.
[Middle Far Left]: HST 16302+8230 could be an "Einstein ring" and the most intriguing lens candidate. It has been nicknamed the "the London Underground" since it resembles that logo.
[Middle Near Left]: HST 14176+5226 is the first, and brightest lens system discovered in 1995 with the Hubble telescope. This lens candidate has now been confirmed spectroscopically using large ground-based telescopes. The elliptical lensing galaxy is located 7 billion light-years away, and the lensed quasar is about 11 billion light-years distant.
[Middle Near Right]: HST 12531-2914 is the second quadruple lens candidate discovered with Hubble. It is similar to the first, but appears smaller and fainter.
[Middle Far Right]: HST 14164+5215 is a pair of bluish lensed images symmetrically placed around a brighter, redder galaxy.
[Bottom Left]: HST 16309+8230 is an edge-on disk-like galaxy (blue arc) which has been significantly distorted by the redder lensing elliptical galaxy.
[Bottom Center]: HST 12368+6212 is a blue arc in the Hubble Deep Field (HDF).
[Bottom Right]: HST 18078+4600 is a blue arc caused by the gravitational potential of a small group of 4 galaxies.
Credit: Kavan Ratnatunga (Carnegie Mellon Univ.) and NASA