Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
July 11, 1995
Microlensing of the Einstein Cross
Picture Credit: Geraint Lewis and Michael Irwin, William Hershel Telescope
Explanation: The famous "Einstein Cross" is a case where a single object is seen four times. Here a very distant QSO happened to be placed right behind a massive galaxy. The gravitational effect of the galaxy on the distant QSO was similar to the lens effect of a drinking glass on a distant street light - it created multiple images. But stars in the foreground galaxy have been found to act as gravitational lenses here too! These stars make the images change brightness relative to each other. These brightness changes are visible on these two photographs of the Einstein Cross, taken about 3 years apart.
For more information about this picture see the home page of the IAU Symposium 173 Astrophysical Applications of Gravitational Lensing in Melbourne, Australia 9-14 July, 1995.