James Webb Space Telescope captures jaw-dropping image of Pandora’s Cluster
A recent “ultra-deep” image from JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) featured never-before-seen details of Abell 2744, also known as Pandora’s Cluster. In the image, the astronomers witnessed the formation of a megacluster of galaxies formed as three massive clusters fused together.
The megacluster’s extreme mass formed a natural super-magnifying glass (gravitational lens) by wrapping up the spacetime fabric through its gravity.
German Scientist Albert Einstein first revealed the phenomenon in his 1915 opus, the theory of gravity called general relativity. This natural magnification allowed the observation of distant galaxies in the early universe, which was impossible with the initial sight of JWST.
The NIRCAM instrument of the JWST was the one that created the image by taking exposures of 6 hours with up to observation time of 30 hours. However, even this significant exposure would have failed to create such a detailed image if it was not for the gravitational lens.
What astronomers have to say?
“The ancient myth of Pandora is about human curiosity and discoveries that delineate the past from the future, which I think is a fitting connection to the new realms of the universe Webb is opening up, including this deep-field image of Pandora’s Cluster,” said astronomer Rachel Bezanson of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, co-principal investigator on the “Ultradeep NIRSpec and NIRCam Observations before the Epoch of Reionization” (UNCOVER) program to study the region.
“When the images of Pandora’s Cluster first came in from Webb, we were honestly a little star struck,” said Bezanson. “There was so much detail in the foreground cluster and so many distant lensed galaxies, I found myself getting lost in the image. Webb exceeded our expectations.” The recent view of Pandora’s Cluster combines four JWST snapshots, creating one panoramic image that displays around fifty thousand near-infrared light sources.
“Pandora’s Cluster, as imaged by Webb, shows us a stronger, wider, deeper, better lens than we have ever seen before,” said Astronomer Ivo Labbe of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. “My first reaction to the image was that it was so beautiful; it looked like a galaxy formation simulation. We had to remind ourselves that this was real data, and we are working in a new era of astronomy now.”
The new data is expected to be revealed in the summer and can reveal utterly new insight into how in the early universe, the galaxies came together and how they eventually evolved to form the universe we observe around us today.
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