A cropped view of El Gordo by James Webb

Mysteries of “El Gordo” Revealed Through James Webb

El Gordo, meaning "The Fat One" in Spanish, is a dense cluster of hundreds of galaxies that existed 6.2 billion years ago, labeling it a "cosmic teenager."


In a groundbreaking exploration, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) unveils a breathtaking image of the galaxy cluster known as “El Gordo,” uncovering features and secrets never witnessed before. With a dramatic lens into the cosmos, the infrared imagery has offered new insights into the universe’s distant past, providing fresh opportunities for scientific discovery. Thanks to the new dataset, scientists are a step closer to unraveling the mysteries of “El Gordo.”

El Gordo, meaning “The Fat One” in Spanish, is a dense cluster of hundreds of galaxies that existed 6.2 billion years ago, labeling it a “cosmic teenager.” Remarkably, it’s the most massive cluster known to have existed at that time.

Mysteries Reveals: El Gordo and James Webb

Operating like a natural cosmic magnifying glass, El Gordo creates a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. Its mighty gravitational force warps and bends the light of distant objects behind it, akin to the effect of an eyeglass lens. Brenda Frye of the University of Arizona described this lensing as a “unique window into the distant universe.”


Within the image of El Gordo, several striking features were uncovered. These include a bright arc named “El Anzuelo” or “The Fishhook,” displaying a distinctive red hue due to a combination of factors including dust and cosmological redshift. Additionally, a pencil-thin line dubbed “La Flaca” or “The Thin One” and a red giant star named Quyllur were detected.

Discovering Galaxy Formation and Star Behavior

The image also permitted researchers to determine the background galaxy’s structure, star formation history, and a process known as quenching. Patrick Kamieneski of Arizona State University emphasized Webb’s ability to “peer through this thick curtain of dust with ease,” allowing a first-hand look at the assembly of galaxies from the inside out.

Other intriguing discoveries were made, such as five multiply lensed galaxies forming a baby galaxy cluster and some of the most distant ultra-diffuse galaxies ever observed. Timothy Carleton, also from Arizona State University, pointed out intriguing differences in these galaxies compared to the ones in the local universe.


Gravitational Lensing: Einstein’s Legacy in Action

As Rogier Windhorst, the principal investigator of the PEARLS program, concluded, “In the El Gordo cluster, we see the power of gravitational lensing in action.” More than a century after Einstein’s prediction, the images of El Gordo are both aesthetically breathtaking and scientifically monumental, unveiling how Webb can “unlock Einstein’s treasure chest.”

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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