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article imageHubble telescope captures extraterrestrial smiley

By Stephen Morgan     Feb 11, 2015 in Science
Forget about nasty bug-eyed monsters, the universe is sending us a smiley instead. NASA's Hubble telescope has captured an image of two galaxies which have created a huge smiling face beaming down on us from the distant reaches of space.
Extraterrestrial hunters have published many grainy photos of supposedly human or alien shapes on planets like Mars, but nobody could have expected that the universe would send us the image of a smiling face billion of light years across.
The photo seems to show two shining orange eyes, a little white nose and circular arcs which make up its head, accompanied by a curving white smile. The eyes are made up of two galaxies grouped together almost perfectly giving the face an angle, as though it were looking at something. All that is missing is a mischievous wink.
However, disappointingly, extraterrestrials aren't sending us a welcoming message. What we have is an intergalactic trick of the eye. In particular, NASA says, the joker responsible for this is galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849.
The smiley is the result of an effect known as strong gravitational lensing, also called the Einstein Ring, which bends light and warps time and space around it. NASA says the smiley image comes from a precise, symmetrical alignment of the source, lens and observer, which results in the ring-like structure. Galaxy clusters are the most gigantic formations in the Universe.
According to the Telegraph, Judy Schmidt, a contestant in a NASA competition to find previously unpublished images, made the discovery. Judy was sifting through the Hubble's data pools and found the smiley image, which had previously been overlooked. IFL Science says that NASA has made over a million of such images since 1990.
"Hubble" the space agency says, "has provided astronomers with the tools to probe these massive galaxies and model their lensing effects, allowing us to peer further into the early Universe than ever before."
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