This video zooms in on a giant cluster of elliptical galaxies which contains so much mass that its gravity bends light beams. This means that for very distant galaxies in the background, the cluster acts as a sort of magnifying glass, bending the path of the distant object’s light towards Hubble. These gravitational lenses are one tool that astronomers can use to extend Hubble’s vision beyond its normal range.
Using Abell 383, a team of astronomers have identified and studied a galaxy so far away we see it as it was less than a billion years after the Big Bang. Viewing this galaxy through the gravitational lens meant that the scientists were able to discern many intriguing features that would otherwise have remained hidden, including that its stars were unexpectedly old for a galaxy this close to the beginning of the Universe. This has profound implications for our understanding of how and when the first galaxies formed, and how the Universe first became transparent to ultraviolet light.