February 9, 2015 5:20 pm

Don’t worry…be happy: Hubble captures universe smiling back at us

A galaxy cluster appears to be smiling at us in this new Hubble image.


TORONTO – The universe is a friendly place.

This Hubble image captured a cluster of galaxies that appear to be smiling.

Of course, there’s science behind the seemingly cheery universe: It’s called gravitational lensing.

The eyes in the photo are galaxies, but the smiling mouth (and the outline of the face) is due to intense gravity.

Galaxy clusters are the most massive things in our universe. Because they are so massive, their intense gravitational pull warps space-time and act like lenses. They magnify and distort any light that is behind them.

This image, taken by Hubble in 2009, shows another effect of gravitational lensing. You can see how the one galaxy at the bottom seems stretched out.

NASA, ESA, the Hubble SM4 ERO Team, and ST-ECF

And to get an idea about how many galaxies are out there, everything in the smiley-face photo — except for the bright star at the bottom centre — is a galaxy. And the area it covers is just one arc minute, a unit of measurement used by astronomers. How small is that? Well, the moon is 30 arc minutes.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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