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Topics: bending of light.

When the path of a light ray is bent, the image of the light source becomes distorted. This is what happens when light is bent as it passes from the air into the lenses of eyeglasses, producing a magnified image. Likewise, when sunlight is deflected as it travels through different layers of the atmosphere, the Sun

appears flattened. Another way that light paths can be bent is through the warping of space by a massive object such as a galaxy or galaxy cluster. The massive object acts as a gravitational lens that distorts the images of more distant background galaxies.

Learn more about Bent Light.

large light triptych
Our eyes contain natural lenses. Sometimes, however, they do not adequately focus light onto the retina and corrections like eyeglasses or contact lenses are needed. These corrective tools are typically made of glass or plastic, which is specially shaped to bend incoming light so that it focuses properly on the retina of the eye.
Image: Stock Photography
The Sun is a sphere, not the misshapen oval that appears in this picture. The distortion happens because the Earth's atmosphere is acting as a lens. Light from the bottom of the Sun is being bent more than from the top because the light must pass through more of the atmosphere the closer we look to the horizon. The effect is that the apparent location of the bottom of the Sun is raised more than the top, making the whole Sun look oval-shaped.
Image: Stock Photography
Gravitational Lensing.
In the early 20th century, Albert Einstein realized that space can be significantly curved by an extremely massive object. Since light follows the curvature of space, a massive object can act as a gravitational lens. We see the effect of gravitational lensing in this image. The light from very distant galaxies has passed through a massive cluster of galaxies that acts as a lens and bends the light. The result is that the images from the galaxies are magnified and distorted into elongated and arched shapes.

Where can we observe images produced by bent light?

Here, there, and everywhere that a light wave is deflected by the medium it is traveling through.

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"Here, There, & Everywhere" (HTE) is supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under grant NNX11AH28G issued through the Science Mission Directorate.

HTE was developed by the Chandra X-ray Center, at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in Cambridge, MA.

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