Choose your movie meme: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” or “Star Wars” for May the Fourth. Either way, the Hubble Space Telescope’s newly released picture of the Abell 370 galaxy cluster is just the ticket.
This composite view from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys shows hundreds of galaxies in the cluster, which is 6 billion light-years away in the constellation Cetus.
The view is remarkable not only because the galaxies are so dense, but also because their mass serves as a gravitational lens, focusing the light from even more distant galaxies into luminous arcs of blue light.
The most stunning arc, toward the left lower quadrant of the picture, is nicknamed “the Dragon.” From the right angle, the feature looks like a long-tailed lizard hanging on a bright galaxy.
Abell 370 has been targeted by Hubble and other telescopes before, but this time the Hubble team focused on the cluster as the last subject of a six-cluster survey known as the Frontier Fields program. To make the observations, scientists spent 630 hours of Hubble time over the course of 560 Earth orbits.
The survey produced the deepest observations ever made of galaxy clusters and the magnified galaxies behind them. Studying the configurations of such clusters and their gravitational lensing effect can lead to insights into the distribution of the mysterious dark matter that makes up most of the stuff in the universe. Abell 370, for instance, contains two large, separate clumps of dark matter.
This galaxy cluster marks the final frontier for the Frontier Fields. And that means you can check yet another movie meme off the list. Live long and prosper!