einstein ring
einstein ring

Stunning ‘Einstein engagement ring’ from the early universe is one of the oldest ever discovered

The Hubble Space Telescope recently snapped an extremely rare, near-perfect ring of gravitationally warped light, known as an “Einstein ring,” shining from a galaxy in the early universe. The luminous halo lines up perfectly with another galaxy, making it look like a diamond-studded engagement ring.

Einstein rings occur when light from a distant galaxy is bent around a closer galaxy or black hole that is perfectly aligned between the distant object and the observer. This bending effect, known as gravitational lensing, is caused by light passing through space-time that has been warped by the immense gravity exerted by the foreground object. The light travels in a straight line through the curved space-time, making it appear as if it were arching around the foreground object

In addition to bending the light, gravitational lensing magnifies it, allowing astronomers to spot distant objects that would otherwise be almost invisible to us. This effect was first predicted by Albert Einstein‘s theory of relativity, which is what gives the cosmic circles their name.

In the new photo, the light of the Einstein ring, named HerS J020941.1+001557, comes from a galaxy located around 19.5 billion light-years from Earth. It has been lensed by a foreground galaxy, named SDSS J020941.27+001558.4, around 2.7 billion light-years away, which is the bright dot at the center of the ring. A third non-lensing galaxy, J020941.23+001600.7, aligns perfectly with the halo of light, making it look like an affixed gemstone. 

HerS J020941 was first discovered in 2015 by the citizen science project Space Warps, but the new Hubble image shows it in a much higher resolution.

Related: Stunningly perfect ‘Einstein ring’ captured by James Webb Space Telescope

The third non-lensing galaxy perfectly aligns with the top of the luminous circle, making the structure loo like an
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