Since the initial James Webb Space Telescope photographs were released in July, our feeds have been inundated with breathtaking images of space, ranging from amazingly detailed images of Jupiter to the furthest distant known star.
Webb has done it again, this time capturing an almost perfect Einstein ring from a distance of 12 billion light-years. And we can’t take our eyes off them.
The colourized image, which was uploaded on Reddit by astronomy graduate student Spaceguy44, is shown below.
An Einstein ring happens when a distant galaxy is magnified and wrapped into an almost-perfect ring by a large galaxy in front of it, as Spaceguy44 describes on Reddit.
SPT-S J041839-4751.8 is the name of the galaxy in question, and it is located 12 billion light-years away.
Here’s a closer look at it, also processed by Spaceguy44:
We wouldn’t be able to observe this galaxy at all if it weren’t for the Einstein ring, according to Spaceguy44.
In addition to being visually appealing, the presence of Einstein rings allows us to investigate these otherwise inaccessible galaxies.
This is known as gravitational lensing, and it was predicted by Einstein, therefore the name.
The effect occurs only when the distant galaxy, the nearby magnifying galaxy, and the observer (in this case, the Webb space telescope) align.
If you wish to experiment, Spaceguy44 claims that the stem and base of a wine glass produce a similar effect. Try it with a book page and observe how the word zooms in.
Although seeing Einstein rings is unusual, it is not unheard of. Hubble already photographed amazing Einstein rings.
This isn’t even Webb’s first time capturing SPT-S J041839-Einstein 4751.8’s ring.
The same region was acquired by the space telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) in August, and Spaceguy44 colourized and released it at the time.
However, the image below was not as clear.
Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) camera obtained the data in the current image, which was downloaded via the MAST portal.
Three different filters are used in the photograph. The F1000W filter in red collects light wavelengths at 10m. The F770W filter for 7.7m wavelengths is green. The blue filter is the F560W, which detects wavelengths of 5.6m.
Spaceguy44 then used astropy to align and colourize the photos before further processing in GIMP.