On March 29, 1979, high in the Quinlan Mountains in the Tohono O’odham Nation in southwestern Arizona, a team of astronomers at Kitt Peak National Observatory was scanning the night sky when they saw something curious in the constellation Ursa Major: two massive celestial objects called quasars with remarkably similar characteristics, burning unusually close to one another.
The astronomers—Dennis Walsh, Bob Carswell and Ray Weymann—looked again on subsequent nights and checked whether the sight was an anomaly caused by interference from a neighboring object. It wasn’t. Spectroscopic analysis confirmed the twin images were actually both light from a single quasar 8.7 billion light-years from Earth. It appeared to telescopes on Kitt Peak to be two bodies because its light was distorted by a massive galaxy between the quasar and Earth. The team had made the first discovery of a gravitational lens.
Since then, gravitational lenses have given us remarkable images of the cosmos and granted cosmologists a powerful means to unravel its mysteries.To read more, click here.