The Hubble telescope has captured on camera what appears to be a face smiling down from outer space.
It turns out to be a galaxy cluster known as SDSS J1038+4849, resembling the smiling face emoticon, the Daily Mail reports.
“You can make out its two orange eyes and white button nose,” the European Space Agency said in a statement on its website.
“In the case of this 'happy face', the two eyes are very bright galaxies and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing,” experts explained.
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(via the Daily Mail)
Galaxy clusters are so massive that they can exert such a powerful gravitational pull, warping the spacetime around them. They also act as “cosmic lenses” which can magnify, distort and bend light behind them.
This structure is known as an “Einstein Ring,” named after the scientist whose theory of general relativity explains this phenomenon. Space.com notes that the light from the more distant object is spread out along a circular path, creating the “smile” and the curve around the edge of the face.
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According to USA Today, a version of the smiley face was first spotted in 2012 by Judy Schmidt, who entered the photo into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasure competition. The contest allows people to look through the telescope’s large data trove and process the images.
Schmidt posted the photo on Flickr, with the caption: "It looks happy."