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Hubble Sees a Double Einstein Ring

10 Jan , 2008 by

An Einstein Ring happens when two galaxies are perfectly aligned. The closer galaxy acts as a lens, magnifying and distorting the view of a more distant galaxy. But today astronomers announced that they’ve discovered a double Einstein Ring: three galaxies are perfectly aligned, creating a double ring around the lensing galaxy. The odds of finding something like this are pretty low. And yet… here it is.

The double Einstein Ring image was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, and shows a central galaxy surrounding by an almost complete ring, with another fainter ring around that. Think of a bull’s-eye.

It was found by an international team of astronomers led by Raphael Gavazzi and Tommaso Treu of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the results were presented at the 211th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas.

Treu was pretty excited, “the twin rings were clearly visible in the Hubble image. When I first saw it I said ‘wow, this is insane!’ I could not believe it!”

Here’s how it works. As Einstein predicted, gravity has the power to bend light. So instead of traveling on a straight curve, light that passes close to a large mass is pulled into a curved path. When you have a foreground galaxy perfectly lined up with a background galaxy, the light from the more distant galaxy is distorted into a ring of light.

Although the background galaxy is distorted, it’s also tremendously magnified, allowing astronomers to use the foreground galaxy as a natural telescope to peer much more deeply into the Universe than they would be able to see normally.

In the case of this double ring, the foreground galaxy is 3 billion light-years away. The background galaxy that forms the first ring is 6 billion light-years away, and the second background galaxy is 11 billion-light years away. This means that the background galaxy is being seen when the Universe was less than 3 billion years old.

The alignment also allowed astronomers to measure the mass of the middle galaxy to 1 billion solar masses. This is the first time the mass of a dwarf galaxy has been measured at this kind of distance.

Original Source: Hubble News Release


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Peter
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Peter
January 10, 2008 12:21 PM

Aren’t all your numbers one off? If we can see two galaxies, one behind the other, then that is THREE galaxies perfectly lined up, one being our own. In this case it would be FOUR!
Even MORE impressive!

Nik
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Nik
January 10, 2008 5:00 PM

Wait… so if the furthest galaxy is 11 billion light years away, doesnt that mean that said “perfect alignment” was actually billions of years ago too?

(Yes i know light year is a measurement of distance and not of time, but if the light from that galaxy takes 11 billion years to reach us, then what we are seeing must be the way it was 11 billion years ago…)

Paul Santos
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Paul Santos
January 10, 2008 5:01 PM

It’s a Web 2.0 logo!

Geoff Offenhuber
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Geoff Offenhuber
January 10, 2008 5:30 PM

I hate it when they fabricate stories like this…but I guess its the only way they can keep funding coming in. Obviously, its a Photoshop filter.

Kearn Kirkwood
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Kearn Kirkwood
January 10, 2008 5:34 PM
Actually, isn’t it one step weirder than that? Since the light had to travel for billions of years between each galaxy, wouldn’t that mean that there was never one moment in time that they were all perfectly physically aligned? The light left the first galaxy, 11 billion years ago, 5 billions years later it went past the next galaxy, 3 billion years later it swung past the next one (by that point the first two probably had moved and were not aligned with the third), and then 3 billion years later, this twice bent light hits the Hubble, by which point no three (much less all four counting us) of the galaxies are actually in the same line.… Read more »
Noah
Guest
January 10, 2008 5:45 PM

Well, this is absolutely uncanny.

Does anyone know what the numerical odds are?

Freiddie
Member
January 10, 2008 6:10 PM

I like the picture, looks like one that came from a galactic hall of mirrors.

Geoff Offenhuber
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Geoff Offenhuber
January 10, 2008 9:20 PM

Glad you agree with me Kearn! I hope NASA will stop wasting our time with these wild statements and get back to developing spy satellites to protect our nation’s security.

Tom
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Tom
January 11, 2008 6:37 AM
So…let me get this straight. We’re accusing NASA and the Hubble imaging teams of fabricating this image for…wait….what would they have to gain from a waste of time like that? Perhaps they made this image in the same super-secret area they faked the moon landing. The Challenger and Columbia disasters never happened, and we’ve secretly had alien representation in the UN for 50 years now. Yeah…they faked the image. You must be right. About as right as thinking that NASA (and not the military, specifically the US Air Force) are responsible for the design of spy satellites. I just want to thank you for opening my eyes! I think what was really behind this “faked” image was the… Read more »
Geoff Offenhuber
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Geoff Offenhuber
January 11, 2008 8:21 AM

The thing you have to remember Tom, is that NASA and Hubble are not around to take pretty pictures of distant galaxies or to grow mold in zero gravity. They are used for national security. Such as the Hubble being used to monitor our boarders for illegal immigrants. Occasionally, they have to release items like this fantasy to keep the public happy allowing the government the opportunity to keep funding the program.

Tom
Guest
Tom
January 11, 2008 9:48 AM
Doesn’t using the most powerful (in the visual spectrum, anyway) telescope in space to watch illegals hopping the border seem like a bit of overkill? I think the sheer volume of reflected light coming from the Earth would simply overwhelm Hubble’s optics if it were to be pointed at our planet, as Hubble’s visual spectrum instrumentation is highly sensitive, and intented (by design) to view light from very far off sources. Even if that were not the case, it is my understanding that Hubble cannot orient itself to face the Earth…or if it can it at least does not do so. I checked the upcoming schedule for the HST, and I don’t see any terrestrial observations on that… Read more »
bugzzz
Member
bugzzz
January 11, 2008 10:42 AM

Can’t we just be amazed and awed by this without the homeland security gheyness? Swear to god right wingers see politics in everything and it is tiring. I find this imaging amazing. Wondering and pondering the universe and where we fit is way more profound and meaningful than this political BS.

raldes
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raldes
January 11, 2008 11:05 AM

i think it is more entertaining to view Geoff Offenhuber comments as ironic. makes them hilarious to read!

Niles
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Niles
January 11, 2008 11:27 AM

Is your name really Fraser Cane?

knewjet
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knewjet
January 29, 2008 9:10 PM

So lets say about the double einstein ring, that like einstein’s daughter lieserl died ,or did she? Someone knows,and really think who einstein knows and what. The double einstein rings effect gravity that effect light, this is also what is happening to our galaxy, so our view is then very different from what we are seeing, even from short distances. Just like the example of the cat in the box whether it is alive or dead.The point is you have to know what your seeing that is fact in how slectromagnetic field and gravity works ,so you do have to know your stuff whether some thing is alive thought or dead thought from any point.

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