Humans are explorers. There's no question about that. But we're also very imaginative. We stare at fluffy clouds until we see familiar shapes. We look at burned toast and see faces. In the stars, we see creatures in the constellations.
Now, a group of NASA astronomers has done the same thing. When they discovered the "Cheshire Cat" galaxy cluster, they thought it looked like an emoji.
We have to admit, the photo does cause this cluster of galaxies to resemble a smiley face emoji. It even looks like something you might send to your friend in a "have a great day" text message. But really, what this photo captures is something much more amazing.
This image was recently captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, and actually shows two gigantic galaxies that are destined to collide. These galaxies make the "eyes" of the smiley face, and the circular lines are actually arcs created by an effect called "strong gravitational lensing." In other words, the gravitational force is so strong that it warps space-time around these galaxies, distorting the light picked up by Hubble.
Since the early '90s, the Hubble Space Telescope has made over a million observations, providing critical information to scientists about our universe. And in this photo at least, that universe looks happy.