Webb captures cosmic jewelled ring of a quasar

James Webb Space Telescope creates multiple images of the quasar RX J1131-1231 due to the effect of gravitational lensing
James Webb Space Telescope creates multiple images of the quasar RX J1131-1231 due to the effect of gravitational lensing. (Image credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Nierenberg)

James Webb Space Telescope has captured multiple images of a distant quasar known as RX J1131-1231, which seems like a cosmic jewelled ring.

The quasar is located about 6 billion light-years away from Earth in the constellation Crater.

Here, multiple images of the same quasar are visible due to the effect of gravitational lensing.

We know from Einstein’s general theory of relativity that gravity can bend the path of light. When light from a distant source passes by a massive galaxy or galaxy cluster, the gravity of the massive galaxy or galaxy cluster bends the light’s path. Gravity therefore acts as a telescopic lens that allows astronomers to detect distant sources that are not normally observable. This effect is known as “gravitational lensing.”.

Now, a direct measurement of the light coming towards us from the quasar RX J1131-1231 is not possible because there is a massive elliptical galaxy between Earth and RX J1131-1231.

But the effect of gravitational lensing makes this impossible possible.

Light from the quasar RX J1131-1231 is emitted in all directions, and as it passes the massive elliptical galaxy, it bends the light path and converges on us, making it possible to observe it.

Many of these light paths converge on us, so we see multiple images of the quasar RX J1131-1231.

RX J1131-1231 is considered one of the best lensed quasars discovered to date, as the central massive elliptical galaxy bends the image of the quasar into a bright arc and produces four images of the object.

The James Webb Space Telescope is a joint mission between NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). The above image of the quasar RX J1131-1231 was released by ESA on July 5, 2024.

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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