ASTRONOMERS have captured a spectacular image of a massive galaxy cluster embedded among thousands of previously unseen galaxies scattered across space and time.

The image of the Abell 370 galaxy cluster and its surroundings was made as part of the Durham University-led Beyond Ultra-deep Frontier Fields And Legacy Observations (BUFFALO) survey.

BUFFALO, led jointly by Durham and the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark, is a new survey of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope aimed at expanding its view of largely uncharted regions of the universe.

Several hundred galaxies can be seen in Abell 370, located about 4 billion light years from Earth, which lies at the centre of the new image.

Thousands of more previously unseen distant galaxies lying behind Abell 370 are also revealed in the image through an effect called gravitational lensing.

The immense mass of galaxy clusters like Abell 370, mainly composed of the mysterious dark matter, bends and magnifies the light of these faraway objects, turning these clusters into natural telescopes.

This gravitational lensing effect allows scientists to see further into space beyond the cluster, by capturing the light emitted by very distant and faint objects.

Dr Mathilde Jauzac, BUFFALO joint lead, in Durham University’s Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, said: “By expanding the area that we map around each of these clusters, we will significantly improve our estimate of the clusters’ magnification, a mandatory step for studying the distant galaxies that BUFFALO will discover.

“Plus, BUFFALO will allow us to map precisely the distribution of dark matter in these massive clusters, and thus trace their evolutionary history, a missing piece of information in today’s evolution theories.

“BUFFALO represents an amazing opportunity to understand how dark matter assembles, interacts, and evolves in the most massive structures present in our Universe.”

As well as using Hubble, BUFFALO will also take advantage of observations from other space telescopes, including the ultra-deep Spitzer Space Telescope observations that already exist around these clusters.