The Hubble Space Telescope is responsible for some of the most beautiful images of the universe ever taken. It has captured countless stars and swirling galaxies and unthinkably huge nebulae. This week, it found a giant smiley face, peeking out at us through the blackness of space.
According to NASA, the “eyes” are really just two bright galaxies and the “smile” lines are arcs caused by gravitational lensing. “Galaxy clusters are the most massive structures in the universe,” NASA explains in a press release. “Their gravitational pull is so strong, they warp the surrounding spacetime and act as cosmic lenses that can magnify, distort and bend light.” If you’ve seen Interstellar, you’ve watched gravitational lensing in action.
The spacemoji was actually found by Judy Schmidt, a multimedia artist and expert Hubble processor who is not affiliated with NASA or ESA in any way.
As part of the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures program, amateur space sleuths can comb through the telescope’s massive archive and process its scientific data into beautiful images. Many of Hubble’s Pictures of the Week were produced this way. Here’s how to get started—maybe you’ll make the next great discovery.
Hubble is a joint creation of NASA and ESA and is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.