Popular Culture

This Galaxy Looks Like, Was Named After, The Cheshire Cat — Our Universe Remains Weird


SPoW_November27_003b-1024x640Being as astronomer must be a trippy job. Every once in a while, you look out at the infinite cosmos and think, “Yep, that looks like an Alice in Wonderland character.” That’s what one scientist thought when he saw a galaxy that looks like a smiling Cheshire Cat suspended in the deep black space. And the kicker is there are many “Cheshire Cat” galaxies out there in the universe, grinning toothily (and probably with a whole lot of attitude) at astronomers.

According to Wired, the light of Cheshire Cat galaxies are stretched and bent by large amounts of mass contained in the foreground galaxies. This is called “gravitational lensing” and that’s what’s responsible for the “smile” you see in the photo.

Gravitational lensing is one of the key factors of Einstein’s general relativity theory, that was published 100 years ago this month, totally revolutionizing the way we perceive, understand, and observe our universe.

This photo is courtesy of Chandra X-Ray Conservatory, and it contains evidence that the Cheshire Cat “group” are slamming into each other, and that the left “eye” contains an “actively feeding” supermassive black hole. That’s right: each of the “eyes” you see is a cluster of galaxies, and they’re all slamming together, while a black hole sucks everything into oblivion.

Head hurts. Must stop.


Lisa Lo Paro
Lisa is a freelance writer and bibliophile living on the outskirts of New York City. She likes 2 a.m. with a good book, takes cream in her coffee and heavily filters her photos. Check out her blog The Most Happy, her Instagram, and Twitter.

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