Since the first James Webb Space Telescope images were released in July, our feeds have been awash with mind-bogglingly beautiful images of space — from insanely detailed images of Jupiter to the most distant known star.
Now Webb has done it again, this time with a near-perfect Einstein ring of about 12″ billion light years away. And we can’t stop staring.
You can see the colorized image, shared by astronomy student Spaceguy44 on Reddit, below.
As Spaceguy44 explains on Reddit, an Einstein ring is created when a distant galaxy is magnified and wrapped in a near-perfect ring by a huge galaxy in front of it.
The galaxy in question is called SPT-S J041839-4751.8 and it is a staggering 12 billion light-years away.
Here’s a more distant view of it, also processed by Spaceguy44:
According to Spaceguy44, we wouldn’t be able to see this galaxy at all without the Einstein ring.
And the presence of Einstein rings allows us not only to look beautiful, but also to study these otherwise nearly impossible-to-see galaxies.
This process is known as gravitational lensing, and it’s an effect that Einstein predicted — hence the name.
The effect only occurs when the distant galaxy, the nearest magnifying galaxy, and the observer (in this case, the Webb Space Telescope) are aligned.
If you’d like to try it yourself, Spaceguy44 says the stem and base of a wine glass create a similar effect. Try it with a page of a book and see the word zoomed in.
While it’s rare to see Einstein rings, it’s not unheard of. Hubble previously made images of spectacular Einstein rings.
This isn’t even the first time Webb has captured the Einstein ring of SPT-S J041839-4751.8.
The space telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured the same area in August, and Spaceguy44 colored it in and then released it too.
But the image below was not so clear.
In the latest image, the data was captured by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) camera and downloaded from the MAST portal.
The image uses three different filters. Red is the F1000W filter, which captures wavelengths of light of 10 µm. Green is the F770W filter, for wavelengths of 7.7 µm. Blue is the F560W filter that picks up wavelengths of 5.6 µm.
The images were then aligned and colored by Spaceguy44 using astronomy, and further processing was done in GIMP.