A dozen space doppelgangers

This image, captured using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows an astronomical object whose image is multiplied by the effect of strong gravitational lensing.

The galaxy, nicknamed the Sunburst Arc, is almost 11 billion light-years away from Earth and has been lensed into multiple images by a massive cluster of galaxies 4.6 billion light-years away.

The mass of the galaxy cluster is large enough to bend and magnify the light from the more distant galaxy behind it. This process leads not only to a deformation of the light from the object, but also to a multiplication of the image of the lensed galaxy.

In the case of the Sunburst Arc, the lensing effect led to at least 12 images of the galaxy, distributed over four major arcs. Three of these arcs are visible in the top right of the image, while one counter arc is visible in the lower left – partially obscured by a bright foreground star within the Milky Way.

This unique sight helps astronomers get a better understanding of the cosmic era known as the Epoch of Reionisation.

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