The “gravitational lens” effect predicted by German physicist Albert Einstein in 1912 was recorded by a new image produced by the Hubble Space Telescope and, as always, the results are as impressive as their scientific explanation.
According to the statement, the “gravitational lens” is another aspect of gravity. In it, the way light is presented is distorted and amplified thanks to the presence of one or more bodies of extreme mass, allowing space-time to “twitch” to the point where we can visualize it – even if at an extreme distance from your position.
In the image above, produced by Hubble and released this week by ESA, we see six objects: four points of light connected by a ring, rotating around another two points of light, more golden.
Well, these “six” points are actually three. Specifically, two galaxies in the center, plus a rotating quasar in the background. The reason we see the quadruplicate ring is because the light from the quasar is largely distorted and amplified by the region’s immense gravitational field. As the mass of the two galaxies at the center is incredibly high, this causes the spacetime around them to bend. Any light – such as the light from the quasar – that enters this field will have no choice but to follow this curvature.
Interestingly, the effect positioned by Albert Einstein and captured by Hubble is precisely one of the main tools used by scientists to “see” in space – both in closer aspects and in more distant points. Theoretically, everything that has mass can serve as a gravitational lens – the amount of mass will determine the “strength” of the effect.
Further, the gravitational lens allows us to “weigh” entire galaxies – an essential step in mapping regions with a strong presence of so-called “dark matter”, the invisible and extremely powerful source of mass that generates even more gravity, but which we cannot manage. to see directly, nor to explain through what we have already detected in space.
The gravitational lens can work at various scales, helping us, for example, to detect large black holes within the Milky Way, or even much smaller objects such as errant exoplanets (those that are not tethered to a star and, consequently, do not reflect light).
The image above is available in wallpaper size (just over 30 MB in weight) on the official website of ESA, the European space agency.
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