The centre of this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is framed by the tell-tale arcs that result from strong gravitational lensing, a striking astronomical phenomenon which can warp, magnify, or even duplicate the appearance of distant galaxies.
Gravitational lensing occurs when light from a distant galaxy is subtly distorted by the gravitational pull of an intervening astronomical object. In this case, the relatively nearby galaxy cluster MACSJ0138.0-2155 has lensed a significantly more distant quiescent galaxy — a slumbering giant known as MRG-M0138 which has run out of the gas required to form new stars and is located 10 billion light years away. Astronomers can use gravitational lensing as a natural magnifying glass, allowing them to inspect objects like distant quiescent galaxies which would usually be too difficult for even Hubble to resolve.
This image was made using observations from eight different infrared filters spread across two of Hubble’s most advanced astronomical instruments: the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3. These instruments were installed by astronauts during the final two servicing missions to Hubble, and provide astronomers with superbly detailed observations across a large area of sky and a wide range of wavelengths.
ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Newman, M. Akhshik, K. Whitaker
Source: ESA / Hubble
European Space Agency
European organisation dedicated to the exploration of space
The European Space Agency (ESA; French: Agence spatiale européenne pronunciation (help·info), ASE; German: Europäische Weltraumorganisation) is an intergovernmental organisation of 22 member states dedicated to the exploration of space. Established in 1975 and headquartered in Paris, ESA has a worldwide staff of about 2,200 in 2018 and an annual budget of about €6.5 billion in 2021.
ESA’s space flight programme includes human spaceflight (mainly through participation in the International Space Station program); the launch and operation of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon; Earth observation, science and telecommunication; designing launch vehicles; and maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana. The main European launch vehicle Ariane 5 is operated through Arianespace with ESA sharing in the costs of launching and further developing this launch vehicle. The agency is also working with NASA to manufacture the Orion Spacecraft service module that will fly on the Space Launch System.
The agency’s facilities are distributed among the following centres:
- ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands;
- Earth Observation missions at ESA Centre for Earth Observation in Frascati, Italy;
- ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany;
- The European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany;
- The European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT), a research institute created in 2009, is located in Harwell, England;
- And the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain.
The European Space Agency Science Programme is a long-term programme of space science and space exploration missions.