Galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849
Hubble/ESA/NASA
By Adam Glanzman
February 9, 2015

In the center of this Hubble Telescope image is the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 — and it appears to be smiling back at you.

The two orange eyes of the grinning face are actually two distant galaxies, and the peculiar smile was caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing.

Galaxy clusters are so large that they can create a strong gravitational pull that warps the time and space surrounding them. From afar this creates a distorted view of reality, known as a ‘cosmic lens.’

There are thousands of images within the Hubble database that have only been viewed by a few scientists. However, Hubble opens up its massive database to the public to search through. A version of this particular image was brought to attention by a contestant, Judy Smith, through the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition.

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