Contact: Melinda Lee
DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Caption: Oftentimes it is difficult for scientists to distinguish between a very bright light far away and a dimmer source lying much closer. A gravitational lens circumvents this problem by providing multiple clues as to the distance light travels. When a large nearby object, such as a galaxy, blocks a distant object, such as another galaxy, the light can detour around the blockage. But instead of taking a single path, light can bend around the object in one of two, or four different routes, thus doubling or quadrupling the amount of information scientists receive. As the brightness of the background galaxy nucleus fluctuates, physicists can measure the ebb and flow of light from the four distinct paths, such as in the B1608+656 system imaged above.
Credit: Image courtesy of Sherry Suyu (University of Bonn)
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