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A Smile From Space

As Nietzsche once said, "And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

Photo captured by NASA/EPA's Hubble Telescope

“The Old Astronomer,” a poem written by Sarah Williams, once captured humanity's fascination with the universe: “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”


NASA/ESA’s Hubble telescope, which has been traveling through space the last twenty years and documenting some incredible scenes, has once again captured an image that provokes awe, and this time, a smile.

The two eyes are the galaxy clusters SDSS J1038+4849, and NASA says, “the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing.” The strong gravitational lensing is also called the Einstein Ring, named after the man whose theory of general relativity has helped scientists better understand the mysterious ways of the universe.

NASA provides some context to the heartwarming image in the otherwise cold and lonely space:

"Galaxy clusters are the most massive structures in the Universe and exert such a powerful gravitational pull that they warp the spacetime around them and act as cosmic lenses which can magnify, distort and bend the light behind them. This phenomenon, crucial to many of Hubble's discoveries, can be explained by Einstein's theory of general relativity...

In this special case of gravitational lensing, a ring — known as an Einstein Ring — is produced from this bending of light, a consequence of the exact and symmetrical alignment of the source, lens and observer and resulting in the ring-like structure we see here."

The European Space Agency says the smile was spotted by Judy Schmidt as part of the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image-processing competition.