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Published:April 8th, 2014 11:20 EST
NASA Takes Image and Visualization to the Next Level

NASA Takes Image and Visualization to the Next Level

By Ron G Anselm

"Images in life give us an idea of measurement of the intent of an object as in the first image we get when meeting someone, the size of an object as in the image of visualization when looking at any object, and the measurement of oneself as in how well am I performing in life and at my job per my own set of personal standards." (Anselm, R.)

The world of images lay all around us. How we see things is according to how the image sets itself in its own personality of visualization. How we see and interpret the visualization of images is how the meaning of the images comes into our mind and how we form an opinion about that image.

The world of science uses the skill of visualization to form hypothesis about any image or any field that branch of science is studying. Images in space play a key role of how NASA and scientists form opinions and gather information about the world of the unknown dark.

NASA recently performed this type of image study and found out there is actually a galaxy cluster out there that makes our  own little galaxy cluster a puny cluster of small objects compared to the size and mass of the recently discovered galaxy cluster.

One of NASA`s main assets known as the Hubble Space telescope has found the largest known galaxy cluster lying within a distant universe. NASA used the image visualization technique to be able to measure the mass and size of the newly discovered cluster known as   ACT-CL J0102-4915. This galaxy cluster also has a nickname and is known as EL Gordo " (sounds like a suburb from my home city of East LA or East Los Angeles) but of course it isn`t. El Gordo is a Spanish term meaning the Fat One " and this new cluster definitely lives up to its nickname.

Of course NASA can`t send a rocket up to the newly discovered cluster and measure the mass and size with your ordinary Bob Villa (Home Depot spokesman in the early 1990`s) tape measure but used image visualization as the tape measure by how much the cluster`s gravity warps images of galaxies in the distant background, scientists were able to calculate the mass of the cluster to possibly be as much as three million billion times the mass of our sun. (Wow, I would hate to get lost up there, if you were lost in the middle of the cluster it would take you a million billion lifetimes to even make it to any opening within the cluster) That`s huge!

In your ordinary academic example of how NASA used the measurement technique of visualization of how much the size and mass of the cluster warped or say over shadowed the nearby galaxy clusters is the same example of taking in sports terms the size of your ordinary linebacker in the NFL compared to the size of your Santa Anita Jockey in horse racing. The linebacker being the newly discovered cluster and your jockey being the nearby clusters around it. This is how much according to size the newly discovered cluster over shadows or towers over the nearby galaxy clusters.

 In addition for NASA to also be able to get a true measurement Hubble used another visualization technique known as weak lensing " where the cluster`s immense gravity subtly distorts space like a funhouse mirror and warps images of background galaxies. The greater the warping, the more mass is locked up in the cluster.

James Jee who is the lead author at the University of California at Davis went into more detail about this by saying, "What I did is basically look at the shapes of the background galaxies that are farther away than the cluster itself. It`s given us an even stronger probability that this is really an amazing system very early in the universe." (Jee, J.)

Although there are other large clusters in numerous galaxies, the EL Gordo discovery is so far thought to be the largest of all the clusters in the universe and scientists suspect that even in the early stages of the universe millions of years ago, large clusters this size were few and far between to exist if they even ever existed back in that time.

Part of the other piece to the puzzle in how scientists were able to measure the mass of the El Gordo cluster was over the last two years of study and watching other distant galaxies and their clusters in perspective to the El Gordo cluster, they were able to put together estimates of the El Gordo`s cluster mass based on the motions of the galaxies moving inside the large cluster and the temperatures of the hot gas moving between those galaxies.  

It still stumped scientists of how this mysterious and large cluster was formed. One of the thoughts was that El Gordo may have been formed as a result of a titanic collision between two galaxy clusters which is known as two cosmic cannon balls colliding.

John Hughes of Rutgers University commented on this by saying, "We wondered what happens when you catch a cluster in the midst of a major merger and how the merger process influences both the X-ray gas and the motion of the galaxies. So, the bottom line is because of the complicated merger state, it left some questions about the reliability of the mass estimates we were making." (Hughes, J.)

This is where the data collected by the Hubble telescope came in. Felipe Menanteau of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shed a little insight on this, "We were in dire need for an independent and more robust mass estimate given how extreme this cluster is and how rare its existence is in the current cosmological model. There was all this kinematic energy that was unaccounted for and could potentially suggest that we were actually underestimating the mass. " (Menanteau, F.)

The expectation of "unaccounted energy" comes from the fact the merger of galaxy clusters is occurring tangentially to the observers` line-of-sight. This means they are potentially missing a good fraction of the kinetic energy of the merger because their spectroscopic measurements only track the radial speeds of the galaxies (

The next plan is to capture images of the El Gordo cluster. Since El Gordo is massive the complete cluster will not fit into one image, so the Hubble team plans on taking several images of El Gordo and then piecing them together into one large image.

Remember as you visualize images around the world and in space that there is a certain mystery to them. We form an opinion about those same images as we look deep into the mystery and take the beauty of each of those images personality into our minds perspective and our own visualization and interpretation of what we see.


NASA Hubble Team Finds Monster "El Gordo" Galaxy Cluster Bigger than Thought, ( Retrieved April 2014.

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-Ron G. Anselm