Curated Content for Incredible Kids
28 Aug 2021
In the image, two galaxies, around 3.4 billion light-years from Earth, warp and deflect light from an even more distant galaxy behind them.
This is called gravitational lensing, an effect predicted by Einstein, and it's beautifully illustrated in a new release from the Hubble Space Telescope. In the center in the image (below) is a shiny, near-perfect ring with what appear to be four bright spots threaded along it, looping around two more points with a golden glow.
This is called an Einstein ring, and those bright dots are not six galaxies, but three: the two in the middle of the ring, and one quasar behind it, its light distorted and magnified as it passes through the gravitational field of the two foreground galaxies. Because the mass of the two foreground galaxies is so high, this causes a gravitational curvature of space-time around the pair.
Any light that then travels through this space-time follows this curvature and enters our telescopes smeared and distorted – but also magnified.