APR 24, 2015 03:58 AM PDT

A Smiley Face In Space

The galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 - and it seems to be smiling.

In the center of this image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 - and it seems to be smiling.

You can make out its two orange eyes and white button nose. In the case of this "happy face", the two eyes are very bright galaxies and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing.

Galaxy clusters are the most massive structures in the Universe and exert such a powerful gravitational pull that they warp the spacetime around them and act as cosmic lenses which can magnify, distort and bend the light behind them. This phenomenon, crucial to many of Hubble's discoveries, can be explained by Einstein's theory of general relativity.

In this special case of gravitational lensing, a ring - known as an Einstein Ring - is produced from this bending of light, a consequence of the exact and symmetrical alignment of the source, lens and observer and resulting in the ring-like structure we see here.

Hubble has provided astronomers with the tools to probe these massive galaxies and model their lensing effects, allowing us to peer further into the early Universe than ever before. This object was studied by Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) as part of a survey of strong lenses.
About the Author
  • Andrew J. Dunlop lives and writes in a little town near Boston. He's interested in space, the Earth, and the way that humans and other species live on it.
You May Also Like
JUN 19, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUN 19, 2018
Watch the Heart of the ESA's ExoMars Rover Endure Stress Testing
The European Space Agency plans to send its ExoMars rover to Mars in 2020 to explore the red planet’s surface for signs of past (or present) life. Bu...
JUN 26, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUN 26, 2018
Researchers Redefine Size Limits for Neutron Stars
Neutrons stars are unimaginably dense, and perhaps even the densest-known objects in the entire universe. They can be as small as a city and contain just a...
JUL 29, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 29, 2018
Algae in Space: A Potential Food and Fuel Source?
During SpaceX’s recent CRS-15 launch, a mission to resupply the International Space Station with fresh supplies, the commercial space company’s...
AUG 27, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 27, 2018
These Are Some of the Oldest Galaxies in the Universe, Astronomers Say
While exploring the depths of the universe, astronomers from Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology and the Harvard-Smithsonian Ce...
AUG 29, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 29, 2018
New Horizons Spacecraft Photographs its Next Flyby Target
Immediately following New Horizons’ historic Pluto fly-by in 2015, NASA began planning the spacecraft’s next fly-by mission. The space agency u...
SEP 11, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 11, 2018
Lunar Rock Samples Collected by the Apollo Astronauts May Not Tell the Moon's Entire Story
While some researchers study our planet to learn more about its history and formation, other researchers focus their efforts on alternative bodies in the s...
Loading Comments...