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Cool feature was spotted by an amateur volunteer

The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted yet another remarkable find -- a stellar smiley face.

The remarkable image was spotted by a volunteer -- Judy Schmidt -- sifting through the raw data from the powerful orbital telescope.  invites the public to sift through Hubble's raw data under the Hubble's Hidden Treasures program, crowdsourcing the hunt for these kinds of noteworthy images.

Hubble's Hidden Treasures

The smiley face features, a faint blurry ring outline, another blur that seems to form a lopsided grin and two glowing yellow "eyes".  Is it some sort of ancient alien construct attempting to communicate with the humans LOLCat style?

Einstein Ring smilie

Einstein Ring
The distant "smiley face" Hubble saw is pictured. [Image Source: SpaceTelescope.org]

Not likely, although if a higher power exists, maybe this is their way of pranking us.  It turns out the unique image is actually produced by a graviational lens, light warped by a massive multi-galaxy (commonly a cluster of galaxies) or supermassive blackhole.  One line of warping produces the smiley image's "mouth", another special line of warping called an "Einstein ring" produces the outline.

Gravitational Lens
Gravitational lenses are cool physics at work. [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

The faint blue "nose" of the image and its two gleaming yellow "eyes" are actually distant galaxies which are perfectly positioned to form the features on this face-like image.

The human brain is hard-wired to recognize faces.  Hence it finds images in non-human objects like this, a phenomena known as pareidolia.  Perhaps the most famous example of pareidolia is the so-called "Man in the Moon."

Source: Hubble





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