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History of Astronomy

Early explorations in astronomy and how they link to math and geometrical models.

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Einstein's Cross

Einstein's Cross

Credit: NASA
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Einstein_cross.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Sitting behind ZW 2237+030, the Einstein Cross refers to the four images of the same quasar. It serves as an excellent example of the gravitational lensing phenomenon.

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Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
Source: http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1122a/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Quasars are known to be the brightest objects in the universe [Figure2]

  • A quasar is an energetic and active galactic nucleus that normally shows a high redshift. They are also recognized as the most luminous objects in the entire universe.
  • The four images seen in the Einstein Cross are a result of a galaxy in the foreground that is bending the light that is coming from the quasar. The bending of light due to a massive object is one of the concepts involved in general relativity. Light given off by an object on the other side of a massive object will be bent towards your eye like a lens.
  • View an animation of the Einstein Cross at the link below: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DubRAfJSCrM

  • Learn how quasars are created at the video below: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qil7bKy1NrQ

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Using the information provided above, answer the following questions.

  1. What exists at the center of a quasar?
  2. Describe gravitational lensing.
  3. If a star is observed to have a red shift, does this tell you what direction the star is moving relative to you? If so, what direction is it moving?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: NASA; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Einstein_cross.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser; Source: http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1122a/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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