A new image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the stunning «Einstein ring» billions of light-years from Earth — a phenomenon named after Albert Einstein, who predicted that gravity could bend light.
The round object is in the center Photo published by the European Space Agency They are actually three galaxies shown as seven, with four separate images of the most distant galaxies forming a visible ring around the other galaxies.
The most distant galaxy — a special type of extremely bright galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its center known as a quasar — is about 15 billion light-years from Earth.
At such a great distance, it should be invisible even to the best space telescopes, but its light is bent by the two foreground galaxies, about 3 billion light-years away, so its image appears to us in five separate places: four times in the ring and once in the center The ring, although this can only be detected in the telescope’s digital data.
This rare phenomenon is named after Einstein, the physicist who predicted in 1911 that gravity would affect light just as it affects physical matter. Einstein proposed the idea as a test of his theory of general relativity in 1915, and in 1919 British astronomer Arthur Eddington confirmed the effect during a solar eclipse on the island of Principe off the west coast of Africa, noting that the stars near the eclipsed disk seemed out of place in part because their light was It is bent by the sun’s gravity.
Telescopes in Einstein’s time were not able to detect any other signs of the phenomenon. It was first seen by astronomers at Kate Summit Observatory in Arizona in 1979 as Twin Quasar QSO 0957 +561, which is a single quasar that looks like two here on Earth because its image is «gravitationally sensed» by a closer but invisible galaxy.
Since then, astronomers have discovered hundreds of Einstein rings, although the alignment of the distant galaxies must be perfect and none of them can be seen without a large telescope. The common formation is Einstein Cross, where the distant galaxy appears as four separate images around a galaxy closer to Earth, but the nearest galaxy is too dim to be seen.
Einstein rings and Einstein junctions are more than just a pretty phenomenon — a gravitational lensing allows astronomers to search far into the depths of the universe, and also reveals hidden details of lensing galaxies.
«Einstein’s rings and Einstein crosses are supposed to be evidence that there is more material in the nearest galaxies than meets the eye, and that likely means dark matter,» said Ed Krupp, astronomer and director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Its distribution can help shed light on the identity and distribution of dark matter and the relative geometry of the entire universe.
These gravitational lenses have also been used to spy on some of the most distant dwarf galaxies in the universe, which, being among the oldest galaxies, astronomers can tell astronomers more about the formation of galaxies; While gravitational «microlensing» — differences in light from individual stars — has been used to reveal the invisible presence of far away outer planetsKrupp said in an email.