The gravitational field surrounding this massive cluster of galaxies, Abell 68, acts as a natural lens in space to brighten and magnify the light coming from very distant background galaxies. Like a fun-house mirror, lensing creates a fantasy landscape of arc-like images and mirror images of background galaxies. The foreground cluster is 2 billion light-years away, and the lensed images come from galaxies far behind it.
1 and 2: This galaxy is visible twice, because its light has followed two separate paths around an elliptical galaxy before reaching us. The image marked 2 is heavily distorted into what looks like the shape of a simulated alien from the 1970s video game Space Invaders.
3: This galaxy appears to have purple liquid dripping from it. The "droplets" are gas clouds within the galaxy that are being stripped out and heated up as the galaxy passes through a region of denser intergalactic gas. This phenomenon is called ram-pressure stripping.
4: The series of long, light streaks here are background galaxies, the images of which have been heavily distorted by the lensing effects of the cluster in the foreground.
Object Name: Abell 68
Image Type: Astronomical/Annotated
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