'Space Invaders' Galaxy Discovered?Category: Science & Technology
Posted: March 6, 2013 04:01PM
Not quite. Researchers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have captured a rather unique image of a galaxy shaped like an enemy from the classic game, Space Invaders. This image is not the result of a galactic merger though, like other oddly shaped galaxies, but by the intense gravitational lensing of a galaxy cluster.
One of the consequences of the Theory of General Relativity is that gravity bends space and time around massive objects. If the mass is great enough, the warping of space can cause light to be bent around the object, producing a lensing effect. This lensing can be very useful for astronomers though because it can amplify the light from a galaxy so distant it would normally be invisible. In this case the lensing has distorted a galaxy so much that it is half mirrored, giving it the eyes and space of a Space Invaders enemy. This same galaxy is also visible, without the distortion in the same image.
Another interesting object caught in this image is a 'weeping' galaxy, if you will, though this is not related to the gravitational lensing. It appears the galaxy is passing through a dense volume of intergalactic gas, which is pulling chunks of the galaxy away. These chunks are being heated up in the process, causing them to glow with infrared light.