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Hubble Telescope Explores Real-Life ‘Final Frontier’

Jul 22, 2016 04:03 AM EDT
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The Hubble Space Telescope explores new worlds as part of its Frontier Fields program, NASA officials said.

Just in time before cinemas show the new Star Trek film, the franchise of which started 50 years ago when Captain Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise began their journey to space or the "final frontier," the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has unveiled its latest image of Abell S1063, a galaxy cluster that is potentially home to billions of strange new words.

The image shows the cluster as it was four billion years ago. But the first results from the data on Abell S1063 promise more remarkable discoveries, as the exploration could take them even earlier than four billion years ago, right after the Big Bang. One of the galaxies, in fact, is about 12.7 billion years ago, which is approximately only 1 billion years after the Big Bang, scientists said.

According to scientists, the huge mass of cluster distorts and magnifies the light from its background galaxies due to an effect called gravitational lensing.

"[Gravitational lensing] allows Hubble to see galaxies that would otherwise be too faint to observe and makes it possible to search for, and study, the very first generation of galaxies in the universe," ESA officials said in a press release.

Astronomers have also discovered 16 background galaxies whose light has been distorted by the cluster, causing them to form multiple images on the sky. According to scientists, this phenomenon will help them improve their models of mass in the cluster in ordinary matter and in dark matter.

Three other clusters have already been observed as part of the Frontier Fields program, which led to the discovery of galaxies that existed only hundreds of million years after the Big Bang and the first predicted appearance of a gravitationally lensed supernova.

Two more Frontier Fields observations will be planned over the next few years. According to ESA, this will give the astronomers a remarkable picture of how they work and what lies within and beyond them.

"Such an extensive international collaboration would have made Gene Roddenberry, the father of Star Trek, proud," ESA officials said.

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