A Cosmic Smile

A smiling lensThis is is the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849, and it seems to be smiling with its two orange eyes and white button nose. The two eyes are very bright galaxies, and the misleading smile lines are 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. They act as cosmic lenses which can magnify, distort, and bend the light coming from behind them. In this special case of gravitational lensing, a ring—known as an Einstein Ring—is produced by this bending of light. The gaps in the ring are a consequence of the inexact and not-quite-symmetrical alignment of the source, lens, and observer.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

8 thoughts on “A Cosmic Smile

  1. This image appears to be right out of a Doug Adams book. If I hadn’t also seen this referenced on other sites, I’d think this was a joke Mr. Hoge was pulling on us.

  2. Really cool pic!
    I have it linked at my place, along with a link to all your posts tagged “Star Porn”, here:


    (My blog doesn’t always ping the way it should, so I try to let friends know when I link them.)

    BTW, Happy Valentine’s Day.

    P.S. I read about what Mrs. Hoge is going through in another post and I want you to know that you both are in my thoughts and prayers. May God bless, protect, and heal your wife, and may He provide you both with strength and comfort.

  3. Pingback: From The Resisters, With Love | Zilla of the Resistance

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