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Tim Kendall's Extreme Astrophysics

Chandra observes the “Cheshire Cat” group of galaxies

27 Nov 2015, 14:02 UTC
Chandra observes the “Cheshire Cat” group of galaxies
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This new image from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the group of galaxies nicknamed the “Cheshire Cat.” X-rays from Chandra show that the two “eye” galaxies and the smaller galaxies associated with them are slamming into one another in a giant galactic collision. Courtesy NASA/Chandra X-ray Observatory.

One hundred years ago this month, Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity, one of the most important scientific achievements in the last century. A key result of Einstein’s theory is that matter warps space-time, and thus a massive object can cause an observable bending of light from a background object. Astronomers have since found many examples of this phenomenon, known as “gravitational lensing.” More than just a cosmic illusion, gravitational lensing provides astronomers with a way of probing extremely distant galaxies and groups of galaxies in ways that would otherwise be impossible even with the most powerful telescopes. The latest results from the “Cheshire Cat” group of galaxies show how manifestations of Einstein’s 100-year-old theory can lead to new discoveries today. Astronomers have given the group this name because of the smiling cat-like appearance. Some of the feline features are actually distant galaxies whose light has been stretched and bent by ...

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