Hubble finds Smiley Faced Galaxy Cluster

Smiley Faced Galaxy Cluster

Galaxy Cluster SDSS J1038+4849
Image Credit: NASA/ESA

It is not hard to see the smiley face at the center of this Hubble image. In the center of this image is the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849.

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.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA
Caption: ESA