This photo illustration shows the foreground lensing source removed. The tiny reconstruceted galaxy 6 billion light-years away SDSS J0737+3216, is smaller than any galaxy ever seen at that distance.
Astronomers discovered this distant galaxy through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. This phenomenon occurs when a massive galaxy in the foreground bends the light rays from a distant galaxy behind it in much the same way as a magnifying glass does. When both galaxies are exactly lined up, the light forms a bull's-eye pattern, called an "Einstein ring," around the foreground galaxy.
This ring can be seen in the hubblesite illustration. Einstein rings are named for physicist Albert Einstein, who predicted the phenomenon. By focusing the light rays, this gravitational lensing effect increases the observed brightness and size of the background galaxy by more than 10 times.
The illustration is based on images taken in infrared light from the W. M. Keck Telescope and visible-light images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble and Keck data reveal information about the early years of the infant galaxy, namely that it is seen just after it formed most of its stars.
This galaxy is about half the size, and approximately one-tenth the "weight" of the smallest distant galaxies typically observed. Weighing only 1/100 as much as our Milky Way Galaxy, the dwarf is much smaller than anything studied before in any detail at this distance.
"Even though this galaxy is more than six billion light years away, the reconstructed image is as sharp as the ordinary ground-based images of the nearest structure of galaxies, the Virgo cluster, which is 100 times closer to us," said lead author Phil Marshall, a postdoctoral fellow at UCSB.
[+/-] Click here to expand
New Image of the Central Region of the Active Galaxy M87
Fifty Times sharper than Hubble from the Max Planck Institute