Astronomers have discovered a stunning, rare example of an “Einstein cross” splitting and magnifying light from the far depths of the universe.
- Einstein predicted the existence of these crosses back in 1915.
- Einstein’s theory of general relativity describes the way massive objects warp the fabric of the universe, called space-time.
- The latest Einstein Cross has some interesting statistics.
- The main galaxy doing the lensing lies about 5.998 billion light-years away. The distant galaxy that it’s lensing is more than 11.179 billion light-years away.
- Thus, the foreground lensing galaxy is giving an amazing look at a galaxy in the early Universe.
- When a massive galaxy sits directly “in front of” a more distant background object (such as a galaxy or a quasar) the distribution of matter around that galaxy and its gravitational effect can “bend” the light from the object as it passes by.
- In this case, Earth, the lensing galaxy and the quasar have aligned to perfectly duplicate the quasar’s light, arranging them along a so-called Einstein ring.
- It turns out that gravitational lensing happens everywhere in the universe, mostly in the form of so-called “weak lensing”.
- Creating an Einstein Cross requires a precise alignment of the lensing body and light source and astronomers refer to this as “strong gravitational lensing”.