The James Webb Space Telescope has captured an image that may make viewers take it twice.
The shot features a special galaxy cluster, known as RX J2129, and three different images of the same galaxy hosting a supernova.
RX J2129 is located approximately 3.2 billion light-years from Earth in the constellation Aquarius.
The triplicate galaxy shows up this way due to gravitational lensing.
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Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive celestial body causes enough space-time to bend the path of light traveling through it, like a large lens.
The mass and gravity of the galaxy cluster is so great that time and space around it are distorted, magnifying, multiplying, and distorting the galaxies behind it.
The supernova in the background triple lensing galaxy was discovered by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope.
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It contains a type Ia supernova. Supernovae are explosions that take place during the final stages of the death of a supermassive star. A Type Ia supernova occurs about once every 500 years in the Milky Way and NASA says evidence shows that it originates from some binary star systems that contain at least one white dwarf, the small hot remnant core of a star similar to the sun.
Supernovae produce a fairly constant luminosity, allowing astronomers to calculate astronomical distances. Scientists can understand how strongly the galaxy cluster is magnifying background objects and how massive it is.
“In addition to distorting images of background objects, gravitational lensing can make distant objects appear much brighter than they would otherwise,” the European Space Agency said in a publication. “If gravitational lensing magnifies something with a known brightness, such as a Type Ia supernova, then astronomers can use this to measure the ‘prescription’ of gravitational lensing.”
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In addition, spectroscopy of the supernova was obtained, allowing comparison of the supernova with Type Ia supernovae in the nearby universe.
The agency said this is an important way to verify that methods for measuring long distances are working as expected.