Since the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope were released in July, we’ve been surprised every week — whether it’s with Jupiter details or the the depths of the universe. And he just scored another amazing goal: two Einstein ring records in a galaxy 12 billion light-years away from Earth.
Images processed and shared by astronomy graduate student “Spaceguy44” on Reddit. He explains that it would be impossible to see without this optical effect, a rare type of “gravitational lensing” – when another galaxy in the foreground acts as a powerful magnifying lens, magnifying and distorting the light from behind it.
The distant galaxy zoomed in is called SPT-S J041839-4751.8. “We wouldn’t be able to see it without the gravitational bending properties of light,” the student wrote. If not for the effect, it would have looked just like a ‘little bubble of light’.
Watch in detail “Einstein’s Ring”:
Spaceguy44 highlights that J0418 is “completely deformed into a perfect ring, due to a massive galaxy in the foreground.” This record was made by the telescope’s MIRI (Middle Infrared Instrument) instrument using three different filters (blue, green and red).
And the other picture, which was also aligned and colored by the student, became less clear and yellowed. It was captured in another length of light, by the James Webb Camera NIRCam (Near Infrared Camera).
Why does this happen?
We call Einstein’s ring the optical effect that makes a very distant galaxy appear magnified and wrapped in a nearly perfect circle, due to the influence of another massive galaxy in front of it. In addition to being beautiful, it helps us see the depths of the universe.
It is a very special case of gravitational lensing, which only occurs when the source (the farthest galaxy), the lens (the closest), and the observer (in this case, the James Webb Telescope) are precisely aligned at the time of recording. This causes a consistency around it, resulting in the formation of a ring-like structure.
This effect is named after the physicist Albert Einstein, who invented the theory of relativity and predicted the existence of the phenomenon of gravitational lenses.
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