Another James Webb goal: A rare photo of a perfect ‘Einstein Ring’

Another James Webb goal: A rare photo of a perfect 'Einstein Ring'

Since the release of the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope in July, we’ve been surprised every week, from details of Jupiter to the depths of the universe. And he just scored another big goal: two recordings of an Einstein ring in a galaxy 12 billion light-years from Earth.

The images were processed and shared by astronomy graduate student “Spaceguy44” on Reddit. He explains that it would be impossible to see it without this optical effect, a rare type of “gravitational lensing” – when another galaxy in the foreground acts as a powerful magnifying glass, magnifying and distorting the light of those behind it. .

The distant galaxy that has been enlarged is called SPT-S J041839-4751.8. “We wouldn’t be able to see it without the light-bending properties of gravity,” the student wrote. If it weren’t for the effect, it might look like “a little bubble of light”.

See the “Einstein ring” in detail:

Phenomenon captured by James Webb and treated by an astronomer in training

Image: JWST/MAST; Spaceguy44/Reddit

“Spaceguy44” points out that J0418 was “completely distorted into a perfect ring, due to a massive galaxy in the foreground”. This recording was made by the MIRI (Middle Infrared Instrument) of the telescope using three different filters (blue, green and red).

The other image, also aligned and colored by the student, has become less sharp and yellowed. It was captured in another length of light, by James Webb’s NIRCam (Near Infrared Camera).

Einstein Ring James Webb - JWST/MAST;  Spaceguy44/Reddit-JWST/MAST;  Spaceguy44/Reddit

NIRCam image, in another infrared range

Image: JWST/MAST; Spaceguy44/Reddit

Why does this happen?

We call Einstein’s Ring the optical effect that causes a very distant galaxy to appear magnified and wrapped in an almost perfect circle, due to the influence of another massive galaxy in front of it. Besides being beautiful, they help us see the depths of the universe.

This is a very special case of gravitational lensing, which only occurs when the source (the farthest galaxy), the lens (the nearest), and the observer (in this case, the James Webb Telescope ) are precisely aligned at the time of recording. . This causes symmetry around it, generating a ring-like structure.

The effect was named after physicist Albert Einstein, who created the theory of relativity and predicted the existence of gravitational lensing phenomena.

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