The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the amazing ‘Einstein’s Ring’ 3.4 billion light-years from Earth.
This cosmic display, formally known as a ‘gravitational lens’, occurs when the gravitational field from a massive object in space distorts the source’s light and changes the direction of the light’s movement, an effect similar to that caused by a lens. It then results in the “Einstein ring”, which was predicted by the famous physicist Albert Einstein, in 1915.
The image shows six bright spots clustered in the centre, four of which form a circle around a central binary.
However, the formation only consists of two galaxies and one distant quasar that is magnified as it passes through the gravitational fields of the galaxies.
As the researchers from the European Space Agency explained: “Appearances can be deceiving. This formation does not consist of six individual galaxies, but only three. To be precise, a pair of galaxies and a distant quasar.”
The quasar, known as 2M1310-1714, is located farther from Earth than the two galaxies.
A quasar is a very bright core of an active galaxy, and its strong glow is caused by the massive amounts of energy radiating from the gas falling into the supermassive black hole at its center.
“The light emitted by the quasar is bent around the two galaxies due to their enormous masses, giving the incredible appearance that the two galaxies are surrounded by four quasars, when in fact, one quasar is far from them,” the European Space Agency (ESA) says in a statement.
In 1915, Einstein claimed that gravity is the result of massive objects distorting the fabric of the universe, which he called spacetime.
Experts have since been able to test his theory of general relativity inside the solar system and prove that his pioneering work is under scrutiny, which was with hundreds of “Einstein rings”.
“General relativity predicts that massive objects distort spacetime. This means that when light passes close to another galaxy, it is so close to a galaxy,” Thomas Collette, of the University of Portsmouth’s Institute for Cosmology and Gravitation, who discovered another “Einstein ring” in 2018, said in a statement. The path of light is deflected. If two galaxies are aligned along our line of sight, this could lead to a phenomenon called strong gravitational lensing, where we see multiple images of the background galaxy.”
If we know the mass of the foreground galaxy, the amount of separation between the multiple images tells us whether general relativity is the correct theory of gravity on galactic scales.
Data from the Hubble telescope identified a seventh spot of light in the center, a rare fifth image of the distant quasar.
A few hundred strong gravitational lenses are known, but most of them are too far from accurately measuring mass. This rare phenomenon is caused by the presence of two galaxies in the center that act as lenses.
Source: Daily Mail
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