This unusual phenomenon, predicted by the theory of General Relativity, was discovered by chance by a doctoral student at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias while analysing images of the Sculptor dwarf galaxy
The PhD student Margherita Bettinelli, of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the University of La Laguna (ULL), together with an international team of astrophysicists has recently discovered an unusual astronomical object: an Einstein ring. These phenomena, predicted by Einstein's theory of General Relativity, are quite rare but scientifically interesting.
This is an image of the "Canarias Einstein ring". In the centre of the picture, we can see how the source galaxy (the greenish-blue circle), which is further away "surrounds" the lens galaxy (red dot) almost completely. This phenomenon is produced because the strong gravitational field of the lens galaxy distorts the space-time in its neighborhood, bending the paths of the light rays which come from the source galaxy. As they are almost perfectly aligned, the resulting image of the source galaxy is almost circular.
Credit: Image made up from several images taken with the DECam camera on the Blanco 4m telescope at the Cerro Tololo Observatory in Chile.
The interest is sufficiently strong that this object has been given its own name: the "The Canarias Einstein ring". The research was carried out by the Stellar Populations group at the IAC, led by Antonio Aparicio and Sebastian Hidalgo. The results were published in the international journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
An Einstein ring is a distorted image of a very distant galaxy, which is termed "the source". The distortion is produced by the bending of the light rays from the source due to a massive galaxy, termed "the lens", lying between it and the observer.
The strong gravitational field produced by the lens galaxy distorts the structure of space-time in its neighbourhood, and this does not only attract objects which have a mass, but also bends the paths of light. When the two galaxies are exactly aligned, the image of the more distant galaxy is converted into an almost perfect circle which surrounds the lens galaxy. The irregularities in the circle are due to asymmetries in the source galaxy.
Confirmation using the GTC
The chance discovery was made by Margherita Bettinelli when she was examining data taken through the "Dark Energy Camera" (DECam) of the 4m Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Observatory, in Chile. While working on her doctoral thesis, she was analyzing the stellar population of the Sculptor dwarf galaxy and noticed the peculiar morphology of the Einstein ring.
This quickly raised the attention of the members of the group and they started to observe and analyze its physical properties with the OSIRIS spectrograph on the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC).
This "Canarias Einstein ring" is one of the most symmetrical discovered until now and is almost circular, showing that the two galaxies are almost perfectly aligned, with a separation on the sky of only 0.2 arcseconds. The source galaxy is 10,000 million light years away from us.
Due to the expansion of the Universe, this distance was smaller when its light started on its journey to us, and has taken 8,500 million years to reach us. We observe it as it was then: a blue galaxy which is beginning to evolve, populated by young stars which are forming at a high rate. The lens galaxy is nearer to us, 6,000 million light years away, and is more evolved. Its stars have almost stopped forming, and its population is old.
"Studying these phenomena -says Antonio Aparicio, one of the IAC astrophysicts who is leading the resarch-, gives us especially relevant information about the composition of the source galaxy, and also about the structure of the gravitational field and of the dark matter in the lens galaxy".
Elena Mora | EurekAlert!
A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions
19.03.2018 | Vienna University of Technology
'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region
16.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...
The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...
At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.
When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.03.2018 | Event News