galaxy image in the above photograph lie four blue "smudges." Each smudge is actually a different image of the same background quasar. The central galaxy happens to fall directly in the light path of the quasar. Consequently, the huge mass of the galaxy is able to pull separate images of the quasar around it - an effect called gravitational lensing. Hence we see a gravitational mirage! Astronomers have hopes of using light differences between these quasar images to not only "weigh" the central galaxy but even provide clues about the expansion rate and composition of the universe.
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NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.
Based on Astronomy Picture Of the Day
Publications with keywords: gravitational lens
Publications with words: gravitational lens