Astronomers have recorded an unparalleled look at X-rays from a black hole system in the early cosmos using gravitational lensing, a natural lens in space. For the first time, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory employed this magnifying glass to sharpen X-ray images. It acquired details about black holes that would otherwise be too far away to analyze with current X-ray telescopes.
The astronomers used the gravitational lensing phenomenon, which occurs when a significant concentration of mass along the line of sight, such as a galaxy, bends light from distant objects. This lensing can amplify light by a substantial amount and create duplicate images of the same thing. The configuration of these identical images can be helpful to decipher the complexity of the object and sharpen images.
The gravitationally-lensed system is called MG B2016+112. It emitted the X-rays detected by Chandra compared to its current age of roughly 14 billion years; the cosmos was only 2 billion years old.