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Gravitational Lens Detail in Abell 370

Abell 370 is a galaxy cluster located approximately 6 billion light-years away from the Earth, in the constellation Cetus. Its core is made up of several hundred galaxies. It was catalogued by George Abell, and is the most distant of the clusters he catalogued. Abell 370 appears to include several arcs of light, which in fact are mirages caused by gravitational lensing of more distant objects. In 2002, astronomers used this lensing effect to discover a galaxy, HCM-6A, 12.8 billion light years away from Earth. At the time it was the furthest known galaxy.

In 2009, study in the field of Abell 370 revealed a grouping of background galaxies lensed and distorted by the cluster into an arc with the appearance of a dragon, hence nicknamed The Dragon by NASA scientists. Its head is composed of a spiral galaxy, with another spiral composing the tail. Several other galaxies form the body of the dragon, all overlapping. These galaxies all lie approximately 5 billion light years away.

Credit: NASA / ESA / the Hubble SM4 ERO Team / and ST-ECF

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