People have looked to the stars for centuries, hoping to find answers to mysteries both scientific and spiritual, or just to admire the beauty of a star filled night. Space, it would seem, is smiling right back.
In a recently released image taken from the Hubble Space Telescope, a cluster of galaxies known as SDSS J1038+4849 looks to be arranged in a classic smiley face. The image was discovered by Judy Schmidt
who submitted it to the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures competition, a program where anyone can look through the enormous amount of pictures captured by the Hubble to highlight particularly noteworthy images.
The face seen is a result of a fascinating cosmic phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. Occasionally a grouping of galaxies can produce a gravitational pull that is so strong that it actually bends time and space around it. That warping can create an area that not only warps the image behind it, but also acts as a huge magnifying lens, allowing a closer look at the objects behind it as well. The ring and smile are composed of very particular views of a warped galactic cluster known as Einstein Rings, with two bright, magnified galaxies forming the eyes of this adorable celestial onlooker.
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