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from NASA James Webb Space Telescope has taken a perfect photo of an “Einstein ring”. The stunning halo is the result of light from a distant galaxy passing through the warped space-time surrounding another galaxy aligned between the distant light source and Earth. The new image, which was created by a Reddit-based astronomy enthusiast, is one of the best examples of the trippy astronomical phenomenon ever captured.
The ring of light in the new image comes from far away galaxy SPT-S J041839-4751.8 (or JO418 for short), which is about 12 billion light years from Earth, making it one of the oldest galaxies in the world. universe. JO418 is pointed directly behind another galaxy, the bright blue light at the center of the ring, which is so massive that its gravitational pull warps the spacetime around it. As light from JO418 reaches the foreground galaxy, it travels through this warped space-time. From Earth, it looks like the light has curved around the galaxy, but the electromagnetic waves we see have actually been traveling in a straight line the whole time.
This strange effect is similar to how glass lenses redirect light. Like magnifying glasses, this phenomenon also makes light from distant galaxies appear much closer than they actually are. The only difference is that the lens is made of gravity-altered space-time instead of glass. As a result, researchers have dubbed this trippy effect, gravitational lenses. Albert Einstein first predicted gravitational lensing in 1912, when he devised his own Relativity theory.
Related: 8 ways to see Einstein’s theory of relativity in real life
Reddit user and astronomy grad student “Spaceguy44” posted the image of Einstein’s JOS18 ring on August 23 to the r/Astronomy subreddit. The anonymous astronomer created the photograph using public data collected by the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on the James Webb Space Telescope.
“We wouldn’t be able to see J0418 if it weren’t for the light-bending properties of gravity,” Spaceguy44 wrote on Reddit. “Without the lensing effect, the galaxy would probably look like more distant galaxies: a tiny speck of light.”
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The new image is not the first glimpse of JO418, but it is by far the most detailed yet.
In 2020, researchers discovered the distant galaxy after detecting partial gravitational lensing with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile; they reported the finding in a paper published that year in the journal Nature (opens in a new tab).
On August 13, Spaceguy44 published an image of JO418 using data collected by Webb’s NIRCam instrument, but the initial shot had a much lower resolution and the ring of light was reportedly less visible. ScienceAlert.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured images of several other Einstein rings, including one formed from warped quasar light. However, none of these Einstein rings were as complete or as clearly visible as the one in the new image.
Perfectly circular Einstein rings are extremely rare because they require distant and foreground galaxies to be perfectly aligned with the observer. However, Webb’s more advanced sensors should make it easier to detect them in the future.
The recently released photo is just the latest example of the high-definition view of the cosmos that Webb will bring to researchers and the general public alike. The space telescope, which published his first pictures in July, it has already stuck to stunning infrared image of Jupitera fascinating view of the chariot wheel galaxythe deepest picture of the universe ever made and other amazing photos.
Originally published in Live Science.
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