Put a ring on it

Image (c) Nature Astronomy
November 2, 2023

The most distant lensing galaxy ever discovered comes with some cosmic bling — known as an “Einstein ring.”

An Einstein ring forms when two galaxies align with Earth in a perfectly straight line, causing refracted starlight from the background galaxy to spill out in a circle around the foreground galaxy. It is a form of gravitational lensing, a phenomenon predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

In a new Nature Astronomy study led by Yale astronomer Pieter van Dokkum, researchers present details of an Einstein ring spotted by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). In this instance, sunlight from the background galaxy traveled 10.3 billion light years to reach Earth, making it the most distant lensing galaxy yet discovered.

“It’s quite an arresting image, and also the first Einstein ring that JWST has discovered,” said van Dokkum, the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Astronomy and professor of physics in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The ring — now dubbed JWST-ER1 — also provides the researchers with important data about the enclosed mass of all material within the radius of the ring, which the researchers said is a “textbook” example of a massive galaxy that has stopped, or nearly stopped, producing new stars.

Co-authors of the study were Gabriel Brammer of the University of Copenhagen, Bingjie Wang and Joel Leja from Pennsylvania State University, and Charlie Conroy from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

This article was taken from the Yale News Insights & Outcomes of November 1, 2023. See below for links to the original article and other related links.

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