First… AWESOME picture.
Second… yea, were alone in the universe. right… (sarcasm)
Third… I am not an astronomer, scientist, or even remotely qualified to comment on this, but I am going to anyway.
That ring of darkness obviously is interesting, but seems odd to me. It seems way to proportional to be natural. You mean to tell me that from our point of view in the universe, there is an almost perfect ring of emptiness, with almost nothing in it, between here and, well, infinity. regardless of the dark matter or just empty space issue, that alone is freaking amazing. Thats like standing in the middle of a crowd of a million people that you do not have any control of, pointing a gun in a random direction, firing, and not hitting anyone. Thats just crazy.
So my first reaction to seeing this was some kind of spherical aberration or distortion. This photo is obviously taken at such a rediculous zoom (5 billion light-years away). Especially since they keep saying dark matter is invisible? If its invisible, what are you showing me again? (or am i just not getting something?)
Though their release doesn’t say anything about how they verified it, I wonder if they tested validity by shooting another photo off-axis? That would at least rule out some kind of lens issue. But my other thought was some kind of lensing effect of space, such as an Einstein Lens. Again, im just a dumb ass arm-chair-science-reader, so take it for nothing. I was told by my astronomy teacher in college, “astronomy is written in pencil, chemistry is written in pen, physics is written in stone.” Although the quantum guys would argue the physics part, the point is, any astronomy is valid until proven otherwise. I suggest writing this one down in pencil…