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Hubble telescope spots 'smiley face' galaxies

Posted at 9:13 AM, Feb 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-10 10:51:03-05

Ever get the feeling someone or something is smiling down at you from above?

It could be the "smiley face" cluster of galaxies.

The cluster named SDSS J1038+4849 looks like a happy face with two orange eyes, a white nose and smile lines.

According to NASA, the "eyes" are very bright galaxies and the smile lines are caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing. Galaxy clusters are so huge they create a powerful gravitational pull that actually warps the spacetime around them, NASA experts say. That can magnify, distort and bend the light behind them, creating the appearance of arcs.

"In this special case of gravitational lensing, a ring - known as an Einstein Ring - is produced from this bending of light," according to NASA. It was given the name because the phenomenon can be explained by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity.

Artist Judy Schmidt entered a version of this picture into ESA’s Hubble’s Hidden Treasures contest.