By: April Carson
A "Einstein ring" has been captured by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. The gorgeous halo is the consequence of light from a distant galaxy passing through deformed space-time, which surrounds another galaxy aligned with the distant light source and Earth. The new photograph, which was created by a Reddit user who is an astronomer, is one of the most beautiful examples of this perplexing astronomical occurrence ever taken.
The distortions of space-time around massive objects like galaxies can produce some remarkable phenomena, including "Einstein rings." These are created when the light from a distant object is bent around a closer object due to the curvature of space-time. If the alignment is just right, the light will appear as a ring around the closer object.
The distant galaxy SPT-S J041839-4751.8 (or JO418 for short), which is around 12 billion light-years from Earth, is the source of the bright glow in the new image. JO418, which is positioned directly behind another galaxy — the brilliant blue light at its center — has such a colossal mass that its gravitational pull distorts space itself. The light from JO418 travels through warped space-time when it reaches the foreground galaxy. On Earth, it appears as though the light has curved around the galaxy, but the electromagnetic waves we detect have actually been traveling in a straight line from beginning to end.
The strange glass-lens effect is comparable to how light is redirected. Additionally, this occurrence makes planets appear closer than they actually are; much like a magnifying glass would. The lens is composed of gravity-mangled space-time rather than glass, however the principles are essentially the same. As a result, this strange effect has been dubbed gravitational lensing. In 1912, when he published his theory of relativity, Albert Einstein first predicted gravitational lensing.
Einstein's theory of general relativity suggested that massive objects could actually bend the fabric of space. This curvature would then cause any light passing by to be redirected. It wasn't until 1919 that British astronomer Arthur Eddington confirmed this theory during a solar eclipse. By measuring how much the stars near the sun appeared to have moved, he was able to show that indeed they had been deflected by the sun's gravity.
The new picture is not the first look at JO418, but it is by far the most detailed to date. Researchers discovered the distant galaxy after detecting gravitational lensing with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile; they published their findings in Nature magazine that year.
On Aug. 13, Reddit user Spaceguy44 shared an image of JO418 taken using data gathered by Webb's NIRCam instrument, but the original shot had a significantly lower resolution and the ring of light was less apparent.
Still, the new image is an incredible achievement. Not only is it one of the farthest things Webb has ever seen, but it's also a gravitational lens — meaning that the light from JO418 has been bent and magnified by the gravity of a massive object in between us and the galaxy. In this case, that object is a giant cluster of galaxies called SDSS J0946+1006.
The Hubble Space Telescope has also captured photographs of several other Eintein rings, including one made from warped quasar light. However, none of these Einstein rings was as well formed or as clearly visible as the one in the new photo.
The likelihood of seeing a perfectly-circular Einstein ring is very low because it requires the foreground and distant galaxies to be in perfect alignment with the observer. However, Webb's more sensitive sensors will make them easier to detect going forward.
"Einstein rings provide a natural 'zoom lens' that magnifies background objects," said Peter Capak, study co-author and astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "The fact that Webb can see this ring so clearly is a testament to its unprecedented power."
The recently published photo is only the most recent illustration of Webb's high-definition perspective of the world that will be offered to both researchers and laypeople. The space telescope, which debuted its first pictures in July, has already taken a magnificent infrared photograph of Jupiter, an awe-inspiring view of the Cartwheel Galaxy, the universe's deepest image ever taken, and other breathtaking photographs. As Webb continues to explore and photograph the universe, we can all be grateful that this state-of-the-art machine will be providing us with a never-before-seen view of the cosmos.
The findings were published on Tech Times.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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