Massive Galaxy Cluster Gives Hubble a Superboost

A new image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals a galaxy cluster so huge that it acts like a magnifying glass, warping and amplifying light from galaxies much farther away.

A new image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals a galaxy cluster so huge that it acts like a magnifying glass, warping and amplifying light from galaxies much farther away.

The new Hubble telescope photo shows the galaxy cluster MACS J0454.1-0300, which is so massive it is the equivalent of about 180 trillion suns. For comparison, the sun is about 333,000 times the mass of the Earth.

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In this image, released last week, the cluster magnifies galaxies that would be too faint to be detected normally with today's technology. These faraway galaxies, each containing millions or billions of stars, appear as sweeping, elongated arcs to the left of this image, NASA officials said. This magnifying process is known as gravitational lensing.

Astronomers are actively taking advantage of gravitational lensing as part of an effort known as the Frontier Fields program, which the Hubble Space Telescope will participate in.

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For each Frontier Fields photo, the Hubble Space Telescope will train its gaze at a seemingly empty part of the sky and collect light for about 103 hours to peer at galaxies that lurk in the distant universe.

These images could also be used help researchers understand dark matter through the way this mysterious substance warps background light, astronomers have said. Scientists have already used one of the Frontier Fields images, revealed last year, to look at galaxy that formed just 650 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was born some 13.8 billion years ago.

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This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals a galaxy cluster, known as MACS J0454.1-0300. Each of the bright spots seen here is a galaxy, and each is home to many millions, or even billions, of stars.

Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope's famous Ultra-Deep Field (UDF) observation,

astronomers have been able to deduce at what age spiral galaxies acquire their spiral structure

. Since its launch in 1990, the veteran observatory has studied countless galaxies, but some of the most striking images are that of the majestic spirals that pervade the entire observable universe. In this celebration of spiral galaxies and Hubble's prowess at imaging them, we've collected some of our favorite galactic views from the space telescope's archives.

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In this majestic image, phenomenal detail in galaxy

NGC 2841

's spiraling dust lanes have been captured.

Spiral galaxy

NGC 5866

as seen nearly edge-on from Hubble's perspective. The dark galactic dust silhouettes the bright galactic core.


unnamed spiral galaxy

located deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies, around 320 million light-years away in the northern constellation Coma Berenices, shows off some intricate detail in its arms.

The famous

Sombrero galaxy

(Messier 104) is an edge-on spiral galaxy -- the "rim" of the sombrero is thick lanes of dust obscuring the galaxy's starlight.


is another spiral galaxy not too dissimilar to our Milky Way. Young, bluish stars track along the galaxy's majestic arms, while older, redder stars cluster in its bright core.

This unique view of


is a combination of Hubble data and photographs taken by astrophotographer Robert Gendler.

The 'classic' spiral

Whirlpool Galaxy

gravitationally interacts with a neighboring galaxy, refining its very clear spiral arms.

To celebrate Hubble's 21st year in space, astronomers released this striking image of a pair of interacting galaxies called

Arp 273

. (Image rotated)

The 3 galaxies of

Arp 274

appear to be very close to one another, but astronomers believe that they are far apart and only overlapping from our perspective.


UGC 10214

is undergoing some violent gravitational disturbances after a suspected galactic collision. The creation of the stream of stars post-collision appear as a tail, giving the galaxy "The Tadpole" moniker.

To see full-resolution images and more detail on the galaxies showcased here, browse the mindblowing online Hubble album.