It looks like the galaxy is smiling down on us.
An image taken with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 appears to show a “happy face,” replete with two orange eyes, a white button nose and a smiling expression.
According to NASA, the smile lines “are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing:
Galaxy clusters are the most massive structures in the Universe and exert such a powerful gravitational pull that they warp the spacetime around them and act as cosmic lenses which can magnify, distort and bend the light behind them. This phenomenon, crucial to many of Hubble’s discoveries, can be explained by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
In this special case of gravitational lensing, a ring — known as an Einstein Ring — is produced from this bending of light, a consequence of the exact and symmetrical alignment of the source, lens and observer and resulting in the ring-like structure we see here.
In other words, the space smiley face is an illusion.
View a larger version of the “happy face” below: