July 7, 2004
This is Chandra's X-ray view of the so-called Cloverleaf quasar, a single object whose image has been reproduced four times through an effect known as gravitational lensing. This process occurs when the gravitational field of a massive, intervening object bends and magnifies light from a distant quasar to produce the multiple images. The foreground galaxies in this case are too faint to be seen in these images. One of the images in the Cloverleaf is brighter than the others in both optical and X-ray light. This is due to microlensing, where a single or binary star in one of the intervening galaxies passes directly in front of the small, X-ray producing region around the quasar's supermassive black hole. X-ray microlensing gives astronomers a new and extremely precise probe of the gas flow around the supermassive black hole.
Topics: X-ray, General relativity, Astronomy, Physics, Cloverleaf quasar, Gravitational microlensing, Twin Quasar, Gravitational lens, Gravitational lensing, Supermassive black hole, Quasar, Black hole, Galaxy