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A smiling lens: 'Happy face' galaxy cluster reveals arcs caused by strong gravitational lensing

Date:
February 10, 2015
Source:
ESA/Hubble Information Centre
Summary:
An image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows what appears to be a smiling galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849. 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.
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Galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849.
Credit: NASA & ESA

In the centre 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.

A version of this image (https://www.flickr.com/photos/geckzilla/6890172668/in/photolist-) was entered into the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Judy Schmidt.


Story Source:

Materials provided by ESA/Hubble Information Centre. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Cite This Page:

ESA/Hubble Information Centre. "A smiling lens: 'Happy face' galaxy cluster reveals arcs caused by strong gravitational lensing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150210163009.htm>.
ESA/Hubble Information Centre. (2015, February 10). A smiling lens: 'Happy face' galaxy cluster reveals arcs caused by strong gravitational lensing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 27, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150210163009.htm
ESA/Hubble Information Centre. "A smiling lens: 'Happy face' galaxy cluster reveals arcs caused by strong gravitational lensing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150210163009.htm (accessed May 27, 2017).

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