James Webb Telescope Reveals Gravitational Lens Magnified Cosmic Seahorse

NIRCam captures stunning image of distant lensing galaxy cluster, SDSS J1226+2149, located 6.3 billion light-years away in the Coma Berenices constellation.

Credits: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Rigby 

March 28, 2023

The James Webb Space Telescope, a joint mission between NASA, ESA, and CSA, has made a significant discovery that has the astronomical community buzzing. Images captured by Webb's primary near-infrared camera, NIRCam, have revealed the presence of a vast gravitational lens in a galaxy cluster SDSS J1226+2149 lying approximately 6.3 billion light-years from Earth, in the constellation Coma Berenices.

Gravitational lensing is a phenomenon that occurs when a massive celestial object, such as a galaxy cluster, causes a curvature of spacetime sufficient enough to bend the light around it. This effect magnifies distant astronomical objects, allowing astronomers to study objects that would otherwise be too faint or far away.

In this case, the gravitational lens has magnified a distant galaxy known as the Cosmic Seahorse, revealing long, bright, and distorted arcs near the core, enabling astronomers to study star formation there. This discovery was made possible by combining Webb's sensitivity with the magnifying effect of gravitational lensing. Earlier studies by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope provided the "prescription" for this gravitational lens.

This image is just one observation from a program designed to probe star formation in distant galaxies. The images captured will not only reveal how quickly stars form and characterize the environments in these galaxies that gave rise to new stars, but also demonstrate the capabilities of Webb and provide richly detailed datasets to the astronomical community. Astronomers expect Webb's crystal-clear vision and cutting-edge instruments to provide new insights into star formation in distant, gravitationally lensed galaxies.

The James Webb Space Telescope's discoveries are a significant breakthrough in the field of astronomy, and researchers are eagerly anticipating what else this innovative technology will reveal.

Source - NASA/ESA