The Hubble Space Telescope captured the image of a galaxy cluster seemingly smiling for the photo opportunity.
The cluster is known as SDSS J1038+4849, and its friendly face was spotted by Judy Schmidt as she looked through the huge amounts of data sent back by the telescope. She has now submitted the image to the Hubble Hidden Treasures competition, in which the public are invited to search through Hubble images and send in interesting shots, writes Rachel Feltman of The Washington Post.
Hubble telescope: Galaxy clusters warped time and space
The smiley face is certainly a rare find, and is in fact caused by a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. The term refers to the fact that some galaxy clusters are so large that they can warp the time and space around them due to their immensely strong gravitational pull. Scientists benefit from this warping because it magnifies objects that are located behind the clusters, but the downside is that they appear warped.
The starry “face” that you can see is formed by an Einstein Ring, which is produced by one specific view of a warped cluster. The “smile” is formed by a different line of warping, while two galaxies are perfectly placed to appear as eyes.
Why do we see faces everywhere?
The fact that humans are prone to finding faces in non-living objects is explained by a neurological phenomenon known as pareidolia. Scientists do not fully understand why our brains behave in this way, but it is thought to be down to evolution. Over the course of time we have adapted to quickly and easily recognize human faces as fellow human beings, even if our view of them is not perfect.
One possible explanation for our tendency to spot faces in unlikely places is that our brains are almost too good at recognizing other human faces, which can lead to us imagining faces peering at us from the stars. What is certain is that the stellar smiley face makes for a beautiful photograph.