An Optical Distortion of Cosmic Proportions
A galaxy-sized distortion illusion has been discovered in the area of the constellation Fornax (the Furnace). The recently discovered object was found 8 billion light-years out and measures 40,000 light-years across.
Large photo shows the region in space where the new artifact is located. An arrow points to the fuzzy red object known as FORJ0332-3557. A very faint crescent shape can be seen near the top of the object; this is the distortion illusion.
Photo Inset shows a greatly enlarged, pixilated view of the reddish blur, and the illusion.
FORJ0332-3557 is one of several known celestial objects which present optical properties often called Einstein Rings, Gravity Wells or sometimes Gravity Lenses. Albert Einstein warned us early in the 19th century that massive objects in space might have enough mass and gravity to bend the path of light. Einstein Rings are our generation’s visible proof that he was right.
Einstein Rings form around massive galaxies; cosmic-sized clumps of gravity large enough to bend the path of light, which has no will do so on its own. A smallish looking blob, reddish, can be seen in the center of the inset enlargement. This is the massive galaxy causing the effect. A light-blue band indicates the actual extent of the illusory effect (lens-shaped). This Gravity Lens is lying between us and another galaxy much farther away, far behind the Lens. All the angles are just right for us to see the illusion. A gravity Lens acts much like a regular glass lens, except sort of rippley, and much bigger; 40,000 light-years bigger. We see the second galaxy within the Lens as a pollywog-shaped smear in the upper-right quadrant. The hidden galaxy is magnified by the Einstein Lens about 13 times its actual size.
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For more information, and better photos take a look at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) page.