Finding Space Warps

Finding Space Warps

A Horseshoe Einstein Ring from Hubble.jpg is a zooniverse project. You can help to find distant galaxies that can only be seen by the warping of the light from them as they pass around a nearby galaxy. If you find one you may even be credited with it.

This bending of light is called gravitational lensing and it is nature's own telescope. The massive gravity from a nearby galaxy or cluster of galaxies bends the fabric of space. As the light rays pass by the galaxy they are bent by this and produce a warped image of the distant galaxy. This focuses the light from the distant galaxy much like a magnifying glass and allows very distant galaxies to be observed. The gravitational lens has a power of about 10x.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

What do these natural telescopes tell us?

Gravitational lenses are rare but they offer a lot of information to astronomers. Not just information about the very distant and early galaxies but also about the composition of the object doing the lensing. This can provide information on the position of dark matter for example.

How can I get involved?

The site is very easy to do but the chance of seeing a gravitational lens is low. All you have to do is mark on a  picture any lens you think might be present. The site often throws in a few tests to make sure you are doing it right. There are millions of pictures to look through and so, they need our help.

Spacewarps picture example.jpg

This picture is an example taken from the Space Warps site. The gravitational lens can be seen and I have marked it with the orange crosshairs.

If you are interested and would like the chance to spot a brand new and previously unseen gravtitational lens then head on over to SpaceWarps and get started.

Find more on: Astronomy Science and News

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