6/23/2013 Archives: Beautiful when Understood

Credit: NASA: Hubble Telescope

While this photo is not “aesthetically pleasing,” it is a beauty of an entirely different sort. What you see here are four mirror images of quasar Q2237+035, gravitationally lensed by a galaxy 400 million light years away. The foreground galaxy’s distance from Earth is: 3,784,211,360,000,000,000,000 kilometers, that’s about 160 times the distance to our large galactic neighbor Andromeda. As far away as the foreground galaxy is, the Quasar is 20 times more distant still!

This Quasar is perhaps the furthest object visible to amateur astronomers. The object requires exceptionally dark skies and a telescope larger than most retailers provide: something of the order of 20″+. However, the rewards are enormous. If you see the Quasar, your eyes are picking up photons that have been travelling for 3 billion years longer than the entire age of our solar system.

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