Out there, in the vastness of space, something is smiling back at the Hubble telescope.
The spacecraft has recently imaged a wide swath of sky that hosts a distant galactic cluster. There, amid a busy crowd of galaxies, Hubble has encountered a friendly face.
While investigating the galactic cluster known as SDSS J0952+3434, Hubble has spotted a very happy-looking galaxy formation resembling a smiley face, reports CNet.
“The Hubble Telescope finally proves that when we stare at space, sometimes the galaxy smiles back,” notes the media outlet.
The image of the “smiling face” was captured by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, or WFC3. Unveiled by NASA on Friday, the snapshot reveals that the galaxy formation bears an eerie resemblance to a pair of bright eyes and a smiling mouth.
“Two yellow-hued blobs hang atop a sweeping arc of light,” stated NASA officials. “The lower, arc-shaped galaxy has the characteristic shape of a galaxy that has been gravitationally lensed — its light has passed near a massive object en route to us, causing it to become distorted and stretched out of shape.”
According to the space agency, Hubble took the picture while scouring the galactic cluster for newborn stars.
“Hubble captured this image in an effort to understand how new stars spring to life throughout the cosmos. WFC3 is able to view distant galaxies at an unprecedented resolution — high enough to locate and study regions of star formation within them,” explained NASA.
The process from which stars emerge starts with a massive cloud of gas housed within a stellar nursery.
“By analyzing the luminosity, size and formation rate of different stellar nurseries, scientists hope to learn more about the processes that can lead to the formation of a newborn star,” said NASA.
Earlier this week, the space agency released another intriguing Hubble photo of a star-forming region, this time in the Serpens Nebula located 1,300 light-years from Earth.
The image was posted on the NASA website on Halloween and showcased a mysterious phenomenon described as a “bat shadow,” visible in the photo below (upper right).
The so-called “bat shadow” is essentially a feature projected by one of the bright stars in the nebula. Dubbed HBC 672, the shining star casts its light upon its surroundings and projects its own shadow on the ring of debris that surrounds it.
This ring is an accumulation of dust, rock, and ice that gravitates around the star and which would have otherwise gone unnoticed as it is too small and too far away to be seen — even by Hubble.
“This is an analog of what the solar system looked like when it was only 1 or 2 million years old,” remarked astronomer Klaus Pontoppidan, a researcher with the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland.
“For all we know, the solar system once created a shadow like this.”
Hubble has only recently come back on-line after a gyroscope glitch caused it to shut down in orbit in early October. As the Inquisitr previously reported, NASA replaced the failed hardware with a spare piece — but the backup gyroscope also showed signs of malfunction.
Nevertheless, Hubble managed to put the trouble behind it and is now back in action and ready to wow us with more amazing snapshots of the cosmos.