Galaxy Cluster MACS J0329.6-0211 lenses several background galaxies including a distant dwarf galaxy. CREDIT: A. Zitrin, et al.

Quadruply Lensed Dwarf Galaxy 12.8 Billion Light Years Away

Article written: 25 Nov , 2011
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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Gravitational lensing is a powerful tool for astronomers that allows them to explore distant galaxies in far more detail than would otherwise be allowed. Without this technique, galaxies at the edge of the visible universe are little more than tiny blobs of light, but when magnified dozens of times by foreground clusters, astronomers are able to explore the internal structural properties more directly.

Recently, astronomers at the University of Heidelberg discovered a gravitational lensed galaxy that ranked among the most distant ever seen. Although there’s a few that beat this one out in distance, this one is remarkable for being a rare quadruple lens.

The images for this remarkable discovery were taken using the Hubble Space Telescope in August and October of this year, using a total of 16 different colored filters as well as additional data from the Spitzer infrared telescope. The foreground cluster, MACS J0329.6-0211, is some 4.6 billion light years distant. In the above image, the background galaxy has been split into four images, labelled by the red ovals and marked as 1.1 – 1.4. They are enlarged in the upper right.

Assuming that the mass of the foreground cluster is concentrated around the galaxies that were visible, the team attempted to reverse the effects the cluster would have on the distant galaxy, which would reverse the distortions. The restored image, also corrected for redshift, is shown in the lower box in the upper right corner.

After correcting for these distortions, the team estimated that the total mass of the distant galaxy is only a few billion times the mass of the Sun. In comparison, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf satellite to our own galaxy, is roughly ten billion solar masses. The overall size of the galaxy was determined to be small as well. These conclusions fit well with expectations of galaxies in the early universe which predict that the large galaxies in today’s universe were built from the combination of many smaller galaxies like this one in the distant past.

The galaxy also conforms to expectations regarding the amount of heavy elements which is significantly lower than stars like the Sun. This lack of heavy elements means that there should be little in the way of dust grains. Such dust tends to be a strong block of shorter wavelengths of light such as ultraviolet and blue. Its absence helps give the galaxy its blue tint.

Star formation is also high in the galaxy. The rate at which they predict new stars are being born is somewhat higher than in other galaxies discovered around the same distance, but the presence of brighter clumps in the restored image suggest the galaxy may be undergoing some interactions, driving the formation of new stars.

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54 Responses

  1. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

    Yo, Angry Astronomer, at the second paragraph, in the second sentence, it should be: there are a few ; not “there’s a few…”.

    Also, at the sixth paragraph, in the first sentence, the “is” should be “are”, since the context is plural: “[…] the amount of heavy elements which is significantly lower than […]”.

    Um… I’ll get my coat and see myself out…

    P.S. Oh, er… I almost forgot, here’s the link to the relevant paper:
    CLASH: Discovery of a Bright z~6.2 Dwarf Galaxy Quadruply Lensed by MACS J0329.6-0211.

    • Anonymous says

      you are a douche

      • Anonymous says

        But he is correct.

      • Anonymous says

        Yes, Ivan is a correct douche. And he adds a bit of frivolity to “Universe Today” whenever he appears. He manages to take the wonder out of astronomy.

      • Gore Gogore says

        true. the little russian that “defends” a foreign language to him is in fact in the best place for himself. Cause in any other place (like on a literature site) his ass would be kicked every minute. Here the kid can “impress” us with his offtopics. I never heard a sign of intelligence from him about anything that this site is about. Excuse my english. Its only the third language i use on a daily basis.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        FYI, I used to be a proofreader; I also have a collection of English language grammar reference books.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        FYI, I used to be a proofreader; I also have a collection of English language grammar reference books.

      • Anonymous says

        Who cares? Dont you get it, the majority of people here think you are a pain in the ass that has very little to contribute. Chill out, nobody wants your nit picking.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Apparently, employers do care.

      • Anonymous says

        This isnt an employer situation you dumb fk! Wish the mods would do something about you, you and your BS take so much away from this website, go fk yourself

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Moderators? You’re the only one here who is resorting to juvenile schoolyard insults!

      • Anonymous says

        “isnt” is wrong.
        “isn’t” is correct

      • EarthlingX says

        For the record, i like it. Native speakers should be at least a bit more concerned about their own language.
        Spelling mistakes also make it harder to read, because one has to imagine what was supposed to be said instead of just reading it.
        For professional writers i find it very unprofessional to make spelling mistakes, especially with spell-checkers for everything.
        I also appreciate link to the paper, even though i don’t always read it.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        FYI, I used to be a proofreader; I also have a collection of English language grammar reference books.

      • Anonymous says

        i don’t think he’s russian. he has demonstrated in the past a lack of knowledge on some basic things regarding russia. he might be from a different former soviet country; perhaps ukraine.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Eh? When did I do that?

      • Anonymous says

        But Ivan did provide a link to this research.

        LC

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Thanks, LC! At least one person appreciates me!

      • Anonymous says

        Hey, me too!

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Thanks!

      • Member
        Steve Nerlich says

        IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE adds value to this website. I am always grateful to be reminded that there might be a better way to express myself.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Thanks, Steve!

      • Member
        Anonymous says

        Also thanks.

        We need all the literacy we can get as there is so little of it nowadays.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Thanks!

      • Anonymous says

        Another (not anymore) silent supporter here.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Thanks!

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Thanks, LC! At least one person appreciates me!

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Thanks, LC! At least one person appreciates me!

      • Anonymous says

        But by the time I get to his link, he’s taken the luster off the subject. Ivan continually attempts to divert the lights of the firmament onto himself. It is going from annoying to infuriating and you’d think the little guy could find a higher calling in life than being the fool of an otherwise really fine astronomy web site.

      • Anonymous says

        But by the time I get to his link, he’s taken the luster off the subject. Ivan continually attempts to divert the lights of the firmament onto himself. It is going from annoying to infuriating and you’d think the little guy could find a higher calling in life than being the fool of an otherwise really fine astronomy web site.

      • Anonymous says

        But by the time I get to his link, he’s taken the luster off the subject. Ivan continually attempts to divert the lights of the firmament onto himself. It is going from annoying to infuriating and you’d think the little guy could find a higher calling in life than being the fool of an otherwise really fine astronomy web site.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Have you been ‘visited‘ by any aliens lately?

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Have you been ‘visited‘ by any aliens lately?

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Have you been ‘visited‘ by any aliens lately?

    • Anonymous says

      Actually, the subject there is, “…the amount…”, singular and implied, therefore it is, “…is…”. It may have been overlooked by you because the author neglected to ad the “;” prior to the “…which…”. It should look like this- The galaxy also conforms to expectations regarding the amount of heavy elements (present); which is significantly lower than (in) stars like the Sun.-
      By using “…which…”, he implies, “the amount…”.
      I’m not a big fan of the semi-colon and prefer two distinct sentences. I’d prefer to have seen this instead, “The galaxy also conforms to expectations regarding the amount of heavy elements (present). This amount is significantly lower than (in) stars like the Sun.”.

      More seriously. Is it proper to compare interstellar dust amounts in that galaxy with elements in our star? Shouldn’t the analogy have been made comparing the elements in the dust of that galaxy with the elements in the dust of our own, (12.8 billion year older, now) galaxy? This would, more correctly, show the dust element differences in observable ages between the two.

    • Anonymous says

      Is it possible somehow to directly mail the author of that article in order to correct spelling mistakes? It is completely pointless that the rest of the world should also have to read this and really does not add to the comments of this article.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        I usually e-mail a note to Nancy (and also to Tammy) about typos, etc.; however, as it’s the weekend, having had a few beers, I thought I’d have some fun annoying the “Angry Astronomer” with a comment. 😉

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        I usually e-mail a note to Nancy (and also to Tammy) about typos, etc.; however, as it’s the weekend, having had a few beers, I thought I’d have some fun annoying the “Angry Astronomer” with a comment. 😉

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        I usually e-mail a note to Nancy (and also to Tammy) about typos, etc.; however, as it’s the weekend, having had a few beers, I thought I’d have some fun annoying the “Angry Astronomer” with a comment. 😉

  2. John Skoyles says

    Let us take stock and give thanks. The faint slightly blue galaxy image in the top right hand corner is not just science but an existential icon:

    Here I am a living being that is the end product of a deep change of events–the evolution of the human species, the evolution of life itself and before that the cosmic journey that led to the particular solar system that surrounds me and I can partly see outside now in the night’s sky. And 12.8 billion light years ago was this galaxy, one of trillions that swarmed and gave birth to the growing universe. So thanks to another chain of events stretching from an ancient gravitational lensing galaxy, Hubble, the researchers at Heidelberg University, the creators of this site, and the internet that made this icon here on this monitor possible.

    And let us take stock and feel shame. Shame that the funding that makes this science possible is going to get cut, Shame that we tolerate a “mad house” of folk so raged and confused about science that one spent 53 seconds on prime time TV unable to name a government agency that if he got power he was intending to abolish.

  3. Anonymous says

    There are a few points that probably should be made here. The image is a bit confusing if you are not familiar with gravitational lensing. The white and blue lines represent the estimated curve that photons from a distant point would appear as due to the curved paths of light from different courses. The white curve corresponds to the high-redshift system z = 6.18, and the blue curve corresponds to the lower redshift of system at z = 2.25. So for a light source at z = 6.18, z = redshift parameter and that this source would be moving away at z times the speed of light, those photons that deviate from a “dead on path” will ray trace in such a way that the distant source would in theory appear as the white curve. The blue curve pertains to a closer source, where there are some X-portions which correspond to optical caustics or the convergence of rays due to effective focal points.

    These curves are computed by a gravitational lensing algorithm that uses empirical inputs for the lensing “screen.” This is fairly impressive. If you can access it the following reference on this is

    Jullo, E., Natarajan, P., Kneib, J., D’Aloisio, A., Limousin, M., Richard, J., & Schimd, C. 2010, Science, 329, 924

    This appears to be worked within the weak gravitational lens approximation.

    The quadruply lensed galaxy is at around the z ~ 2 to 4 distance, which is estimated at the 12.8 bly distance. This is beyond the cosmological event horizon. We can see these objects, but we are utterly unable to ever send any signal to them. This then a representative of the early galaxies which emerged with the reionization period after the so called dark age period, which in turn followed after the end of the radiation dominated period.

    LC

  4. Marcin says

    Since we have four images of the same galaxy and all of them are taken from different directions is it possible to get 3D image of it?

    • Anonymous says

      Its not really images from four different directions. Imagine using a telescope focused on four crystals of a chadelier, the four of which reflect the image of a distant mountain. While there may be some slight parallax, you would not see much more of the mountain (galaxy) than a straight-ahead view.

    • Anonymous says

      Its not really images from four different directions. Imagine using a telescope focused on four crystals of a chadelier, the four of which reflect the image of a distant mountain. While there may be some slight parallax, you would not see much more of the mountain (galaxy) than a straight-ahead view.

      • Marcin says

        It depends on how far target galaxy is from lensing galaxies. If it’s not that far than it’s light rays is not parallel and we could calculate 3D image. In your example distance between crystals in chandalier is very small in comparison with distanse to the mountain.

        In our case lens is 4 billion ly from us and target is 12 ly from us. I don’t know the size of lens but since it’s a galaxy cluster it’s probably hundreds of millions of ly across. Question is: is it enough to get any 3D detail.

    • Anonymous says

      Its not really images from four different directions. Imagine using a telescope focused on four crystals of a chadelier, the four of which reflect the image of a distant mountain. While there may be some slight parallax, you would not see much more of the mountain (galaxy) than a straight-ahead view.

    • magnus.nyborg says

      I suspect the uncertainties in distortions over the different lensed images exceed the distortion caused by parallaxes. Then making a 3D image is pretty much impossible.

  5. Member
    Anonymous says

    This is beyond reason. Somebody does something remarkable and all the yutzes who comment on the article do is bitch about the language tense and form. I now better realize why the Earth used to be flat (until a then other yutz stuck his nose in and started screwing with it).

    Amazing facts and achievement.
    Stupid comments.
    Wait a minute, I just made a comment….

  6. Member
    Anonymous says

    This is beyond reason. Somebody does something remarkable and all the yutzes who comment on the article do is bitch about the language tense and form. I now better realize why the Earth used to be flat (until a then other yutz stuck his nose in and started screwing with it).

    Amazing facts and achievement.
    Stupid comments.
    Wait a minute, I just made a comment….

  7. Member
    Anonymous says

    This is beyond reason. Somebody does something remarkable and all the yutzes who comment on the article do is bitch about the language tense and form. I now better realize why the Earth used to be flat (until a then other yutz stuck his nose in and started screwing with it).

    Amazing facts and achievement.
    Stupid comments.
    Wait a minute, I just made a comment….

    • Anonymous says

      Actually, If nobody (except the author) responded to Ivan’s proofreading comments, nobody would be bothered by long rants for/against his having done so. Personally, I think he is doing the right thing posting the comments. Apparently a few people here just don’t seem to get the “if you don’t have anything nice to say …” idea.

      Also, it was only a small group of folks that believe the earth to be flat. Even the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and others from that time frame knew it was round (and it’s radius to a remarkably accurate degree).

      • Member
        Anonymous says

        Based on the theorem “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it does it make a sound?” you must tell me (since you obviously *know*) how doe *we* know the earth was round until we went around it?

        Ref. Diskworld, 4 big elephants, even bigger turtle….

        Keith L. Butler
        =============================
        * I shall be telling this with a sigh
        Somewhere ages and ages hence:
        Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
        I took the one less traveled by,
        And that has made all the difference**.*
        …..Robt.Frost

Comments are closed.