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The object, a galaxy called MACS0647-JD, is 13.3 billion light years from Earth and can only be seen with the help of a lens of intergalactic proportions. The light from MACS0647-JD left it only 420 million years after the Big Bang, so it provides a valuable look into the nature of the early universe.
MACS0647-JD was observed by the Hubble telescope, though not directly. It’s much too faint to be picked up by the orbiting observatory, so the image had to be magnified first. Between Earth and MACS0647-JD, at a distance from us of 5.6 billion light years, is a galactic cluster called MACS J0647+7015. This is made up largely of dark matter and is so massive that it bends light around itself and acts as a gravitational lens millions of light years in diameter. As the light from MACS0647-JD passed the cluster, it was magnified and split into three images - MACS0647-JD1, MACS0647-JD2 and MACS0647-JD3. These images were two to eight times brighter than the original.
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