A chance alignment of galaxies and a touch of extreme physics was all it took for the universe to create an uncanny smiley face in deep space.
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As captured by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), this ‘cosmic smiley' was created by the extreme gravitational environment surrounding the galactic cluster SDSS J1038+4849. Space-time is so warped around the mass of galaxies that light from behind the cluster is being bent and magnified as if through a vast cosmic lens.
Gravitational lensing has become a powerful tool for Hubble in recent years and the mission is currently using these natural lenses to look well beyond its normal range. By analyzing these enigmatic arcs of light, never before seen detail of galaxies usually too far away to be spied has been resolved - part of an observing campaign known as Frontier Fields.
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But in this case, the magnified arcs of light appear to etch the outline of a face sporting two similar galaxies as eyes and a perfectly-placed smile.
This rare example of a gravitational lens is known as an ‘Einstein Ring' - after Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity that predicts the existence of gravitational lenses in deep space - where the galactic cluster in the foreground and the hidden (lensed) galaxy behind are in almost perfect alignment from our perspective.