Hello There! A "Smiley Face" Galaxy Cluster And Other Hubble Photos

| 10 Feb 2015 15:31

When you gaze into space, does space look back? Check out these Hubble Space Telescope photos!

A strange thing happens when you look into space for too long - sometimes space looks like it's looking back. And I'm not talking about alien races or the like, I mean actual extraterrestrial landscapes. That's why the "Face of Mars" looks like someone buried up to their neck on a beach, or why the Hubble Space Telescope found an entire galaxy cluster with a face. But don't worry, it's a rather cheerful cluster, so I think we're safe.

Galaxy clusters, for those not in the know, are one of the biggest structures in the entire universe. They're made up of hundreds or thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity. One such galaxy, known as the Great Attractor is so utterly massive that it's actually effecting the local expansion of the Universe. So it's a good thing this happy cluster (called SDSS J1038+4849) seems to like us, or at least is amused by our presence.

Of course, SDSS J1038+4849 isn't actually smiling or sentient (as far as I know anyway). It's part of a phenomenon called pareidolia, where random stimulus can be perceived as something familiar or significant. On Earth, that's why people can see the Virgin Mary's face in toast. In space, that's why galaxies look like roses or dying stars look like butterflies. For this galaxy cluster, two very bright galaxies happen to form the eyes, while light bent from gravitational lensing looks like a smile.

SDSS J1038+4849 isn't a new discovery for science - in fact, a version of this image was submitted to Hubble's Hidden Treasures contest back in 2012. But this particular photograph is a great reminder of the amazing sights of our universe. Whether those sights seem friendly or cheerful is just a matter of interpretation.

For your enjoyment, here are more space images curated by the Hubble Space Telescope website.

Source: Hubble, via CNN

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