Smile! Hubble Telescope spots real-life emoticon in space

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The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has spent more than 20 years in space peering into the farthest reaches of our Universe, often billions of light years away. After sifting through some of these images, Judy Schmidt, an image processing contestant for Hubble’s Hidden Treasures, stumbled across a massive galaxy cluster affectionately named SDSS J1038+4849. As you can see, this galaxy cluster gives the impression of a smiling emoticon complete with eyes, cheeks and a smile that will make almost any grandma say, “Well isn’t that just darling.”

The two eyes are in fact a pair of extremely bright galaxies and the cheeks and arching smile lines are the result of strong gravitational lensing. According to ESA, “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.”

Galaxy clusters are considered the most massive structures in the Universe. Given the extreme nature of their size, galaxy clusters are able to exert powerful gravitational pulls that “warp the spacetime around them and act as cosmic lenses which can magnify, distort and bend the light behind them.”

Here’s the original image:

Hubble Telescope_galaxycluster

This smiling galaxy cluster comes courtesy of Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

About Author

Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.

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