Pew pew! NASA has found a Space Invader, but they won’t be activating any laser cannons to shoot it down. If you remember the classic 1970s computer game “Space Invaders,” you’ll quickly see the resemblance of the game’s pixelated alien to this actual image from the Hubble Space Telescope. This strange-looking object is really a mirage created by the gravitational field of a foreground cluster of galaxies warping space and distorting the background images of more distant galaxies.
Here, Abell 68, a massive cluster of galaxies, acts as a natural lens in space to brighten and magnify the light coming from very distant background galaxies. Just 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.
This image was taken in infrared light by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, and combined with near-infrared observations from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.
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The image was found as part of Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition, and was spotted by Nick Rose.
You can still play the Space Aliens game (just search for it online), or you might want to try this huge version: