Two in one: Hubble photographs a couple of galactic clusters

The presented image was obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope. It shows a cluster of galaxies, first identified under the designation Abell 3192.

Galactic cluster Abell 3192. Source: ESA/Hubble & NASA, G. Smith, H. Ebeling, D. Coe

Like all galaxy clusters, Abell 3192 is saturated with hot gas emitting powerful X-rays and is shrouded in a halo of invisible dark matter. All this invisible matter, as well as many galaxies that are visible in the Hubble photo, make up such a huge mass that the cluster noticeably bends the surrounding space, turning it into a gravitational lens. Smaller galaxies located behind Abell 3192 look distorted in the form of long curved arcs along its edges.

Abell 3192 is located in the constellation Eridanus, but the question of its distance from Earth is more complicated. The cluster was originally recorded in 1989. At that time, it was believed that Abell 3192 was a single structure located at a very great distance from the Earth. However, further research revealed something surprising: the mass of the cluster turned out to be most dense not in one, but in two different points.

Subsequently, it was shown that Abell 3192 actually consisted of two completely independent clusters of galaxies: the foreground, located at a distance of about 2.3 billion light-years from Earth, and another cluster located at a much greater distance — about 5.4 billion light-years from our planet. 

A more distant cluster of galaxies, designated MCS J0358.8-2955, is central in the Hubble image. It is believed that the masses of these two clusters of galaxies are about 30 and 120 trillion times larger than the solar one. Both of the largest galaxies located in the centre of the image are part of MCS J0358.8-2955. Smaller galaxies are a mixture of two groups in the composition of Abell 3192.

Earlier, we talked about how Hubble helped to clarify the size of the nearest Earth-like exoplanet.

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