The James Webb Space Telescope continues making history as it explores our universe. Now, a new photograph taken by the space telescope shows the effects of gravitational lensing, revealing one of the best views of a nearly perfect Einstein Ring nearly 12 billion light-years away.
The photograph offers the best view yet of these strange halos of light caused by gravitational distortions.
James Webb Space Telescope images have been flooding the news since July. The space telescope has snapped stunning photographs of galaxies, stars, and even planets. It has also explored our solar system, taking incredible photographs of Jupiter.
With Webb’s latest discovery, we’re able to see an almost perfect Einstein ring nearly 12 billion light-years away.
In the new image, the ring of light comes from the very distant galaxy SPT-S J041839-4751.8 (JO418), one of the oldest galaxies in our universe at 12 billion light years away. It is positioned directly behind another galaxy that is so massive that its gravitational pull warps space-time around it – the bright blue light at the center of the ring.
JO418’s light travels through this warped space-time as it reaches the foreground galaxy. It may appear that light curves around the galaxy, but electromagnetic waves have traveled in a straight line.
Glass lenses redirect light in a similar way to this weird effect. Similar to magnifying glasses, this phenomenon gives the illusion that distant galaxies are closer than they really are. The only difference is that instead of glass, gravity has distorted space-time into a sort of cosmic lens. Due to this phenomenon, researchers have named it gravitational lensing. Gravitational lensing was predicted by Einstein in 1912 when he proposed his theory of relativity.
Astronomy grad student and Reddit user “Spaceguy44” posted the image of the JOS18 Einstein ring in the subreddit r/Astronomy on Aug. 23. Using data collected by the James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), the anonymous astronomer processed the shot.
By far the most detailed image of JO418 yet, it isn’t the first glimpse.
Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, researchers discovered the distant galaxy in 2020; their results were reported in the journal Nature.
As reported by ScienceAlert, Spaceguy44 released an image of JO418 on Aug. 13 that was based on NIRCam data, which had a much lower resolution, and the ring was less visible.
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