A brilliant “ring of fire” has been spotted in deep space, giving astronomers a rare glimpse of a galaxy 12 billion light-years away.
The near-perfect “Einstein ring” was captured at a super-high resolution of 23 milliarcseconds by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a ground telescope in the Atacama desert in Northern Chile.
“With the astounding level of detail in these new ALMA images, astronomers will now be able to reassemble the information contained in the distorted image we see as a ring and produce a reconstruction of the true image of the distant galaxy,” ALMA deputy program scientist Catherine Vlahakis said in a written statement.
The phenomenon is predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which says that gravity bends the path of light. If two objects line up just right, the gravitational pull from one can bend the light coming from the other — like a lens — and even shape that light into a perfect ring as viewed from Earth. (To see how it works, check out the animation below.)
“Gravitational lensing is used in astronomy to study the very distant, very early Universe because it gives even our best telescopes an impressive boost in power,” Vlahakis said in the statement.
source: huffingtonpost.com By Macrina Cooper-White