A smile upon a star wows Earthlings below

11 Feb 2015

Space is a pretty violent place where black holes tear the fabric of space and time apart and suns explode with extreme force, but in one instance it appears a galaxy cluster has a lot to smile about.

In an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 has been captured in such a way that it looks like a rather cheerful smiling face.

As far as landmarks in space go, galaxy clusters are one of the most powerful and largest entities in the universe that exert such a gravitational power that they distort and bend spacetime around it, all of which falls under Einstein’s theory of relativity.

US space agency NASA explains that its two golden eyes are actually two very bright galaxies while its smile is actually created by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing.

This celestial phenomenon, also known as the 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 captured in the image.


Image of galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 via NASA/ESA

Smiling star illustration via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic