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Hubble Discovers a Light-Bending Einstein Ring

April 10, 2018
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Hubble Discovers a Light-Bending Einstein Ring

Hubble Space Telescope snapped a picture packed with galaxies. But among them, you can find a spectacular feature: the Einstein Ring.

Astronomers call this galaxy cluster SDSS J0146-0929. The gravity here bounds hundreds of individual galaxies. But not just that. It actually bends light in a way that creates a ring-like feature, a so-called Einstein Ring.

When light from distant objects, like galaxies, pass by an extremely large mass, it creates a ring like this galaxy cluster. Scientists call this phenomenon gravitational lensing. We can see the phenomenon only if the light source, the massive structure, and the observer – which is Earth, is aligned in a straight-line configuration called a syzygy.

“In this image, the light from a background galaxy is diverted and distorted around the massive intervening cluster and forced to travel along many different light paths toward Earth, making it seem as though the galaxy is in several places at once,” NASA said in a statement.

Scientists named the ring after Albert Einstein who wrote his theory of general relativity in the early 1900s. He suggested that a massive object would warp space and time.

However, Einstein could never imagine that we would be able to actually observe it. That’s because the technology in his time just wasn’t capable of it.

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Thumbnail image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA / Judy Schmidt.

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