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Although our quest for extra-terrestrial beings remains unsatisfied, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured a beautiful image of a happy face smiling down on us from space. The image resembles the familiar emoji, with two bright eyes, a perfectly round face and a cheeky little smile.
The smiley is caused by a phenomenon discovered by Einstein called “strong gravitational lensing”. The two bright eyes in the centre are entire galaxies found a couple of billion light-years away. These galaxies are so large that their gravitational pull is strong enough to warp space-time. This is the same gravity that pulls an apple towards Earth, but in this case, it bends the light from other galaxies to form the grin and the round cartoon face.
The image was discovered as part of the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures competition, whereby amateur photographers were asked to search through the masses of the telescopes archives for overlooked discoveries. This is no huge breakthrough for the scientific community, but the rest of us can sleep easy knowing that the universe is smiling down upon us.