A photo released by NASA, as reported by WFLA, is making the rounds online because of how much the NASA photo looks like a smiling Cheshire cat. The NASA photo is actually not a smiling cat no an emoji, but a picture of a group of galaxies. NASA released the photo to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Theory of General Relativity by Albert Einstein.
— The SETI Institute (@SETIInstitute) November 24, 2015
It was 100 years ago in November, says NASA, that Einstein published the Theory of General Relativity, which prophesied something called “gravitational lensing.” Gravitational lensing is when lights from galaxies are stretched — and they end up creating marvelous photo opportunities like the Cheshire cat phenomenon seen above.
In a post titled “Where Alice in Wonderland Meets Albert Einstein,” NASA explained how the theory was one of the most important published theories in history.
“A key result of Einstein’s theory is that matter warps space-time, and thus a massive object can cause an observable bending of light from a background object. The first success of the theory was the observation, during a solar eclipse, that light from a distant background star was deflected by the predicted amount as it passed near the sun.
“Astronomers have since found many examples of this phenomenon, known as ‘gravitational lensing.’ More than just a cosmic illusion, gravitational lensing provides astronomers with a way of probing extremely distant galaxies and groups of galaxies in ways that would otherwise be impossible even with the most powerful telescopes.
“The latest results from the ‘Cheshire Cat’ group of galaxies show how manifestations of Einstein’s 100-year-old theory can lead to new discoveries today. Astronomers have given the group this name because of the smiling cat-like appearance. Some of the feline features are actually distant galaxies whose light has been stretched and bent by the large amounts of mass, most of which is in the form of dark matter detectable only through its gravitational effect, found in the system.”
Therefore, those pretty pink eyes that are seemingly glowing are, according to NASA, a big collision in the galaxies causing that brightness to occur. Einstein first published his Theory of General Relativity in November of 1915. As such, 100 years later — in November of 2015 — NASA saw fit to release the smiling cat photo. It’s the type of photo that makes viewers wonder what they are examining and has them pondering the image of the group of galaxies on social media.
It’s not the first time NASA has published a photo of stars or galaxies from afar that appear to look like a cat or have been nicknamed with a cat moniker by NASA. Back on January 9, 2001, the below photo was taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory and released by NASA. It shows the inside of a glowing planetary nebula.
The planetary experts didn’t expect to find the star emitting X-ray energy, but the Cat’s Eye Nebula unveiled a cloud of hot gas surrounding the brilliant and bright star.
Another “celestial dance” that happened in space was seen in the below photo released from NASA on April 30, 2002. The photo shows two galaxies dancing together in a game of cat and mouse — or, more accurately, a dance of mouse and mouse — minus the cat. The photo was taken at the time by the newest NASA Hubble Space Telescope camera.
Called “the mice” because of their long tails, the galaxies were expected to merge into a single galaxy.
Similar to the Cheshire cat galaxy photo released by NASA that has folks comparing it to a character from Alice in Wonderland, the photos of other galaxies offer beautiful artwork being created in the heavens.
[Image via NASA]