The long-exposure image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is the deepest-ever picture taken of a cluster of galaxies, and also contains images of some of the intrinsically faintest and youngest galaxies ever detected.
NASA, ESA, J. Lotz, M. Mountain, A. Koekemoer, and the HFF Team (STScI)
FRONTIER FIELDS IMAGE OF GALAXY CLUSTER ABELL 2744. This long-exposure Hubble Space Telescope image of massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744 is the deepest ever made of any cluster of galaxies. It shows some of the faintest and youngest galaxies ever detected in space. Abell 2744, located in the constellation Sculptor, appears in the foreground of this image. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. The immense gravity in Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space and brighten and magnify images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more-distant galaxies appear as they did longer than 12 billion years ago, not long after the big bang. This image is part of an unprecedented long-distance view of the universe from an ambitious collaborative project among the NASA Great Observatories called The Frontier Fields. Over the next several years select patches of the sky will be photographed for the purpose of better understanding galaxy evolution. This visible-light and near-infrared composite image was taken with the Wide Field Camera 3.
The target is the massive cluster Abell 2744, which contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. The immense gravity in this foreground cluster is being used as a "gravitational lens," which warps space to brighten and magnify images of far more-distant background galaxies as they looked over 12 billion years ago, not long after the big bang.
"The Frontier Fields is an experiment; can we use Hubble's exquisite image quality and Einstein's theory of General Relativity to search for the first galaxies?," said Space Telescope Science Institute Director Matt Mountain. "With the other Great Observatories, we are undertaking an ambitious joint program to use galaxy clusters to explore the first billion years of the universe's history."
Simultaneous observations of this field are being done with NASA's two other Great Observatories, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The assembly of all this multispectral information is expected to provide new insights into the origin and evolution of galaxies and their accompanying black holes.
The Hubble exposure reveals nearly 3,000 of these background galaxies interleaved with images of hundreds of foreground galaxies in the cluster. The many background galaxies would otherwise be invisible without the boost from gravitational lensing. Their images not only appear brighter, but also smeared, stretched, and duplicated across the field.
Thanks to the gravitational lensing phenomenon, the background galaxies are magnified to appear up to 10 to 20 times larger than they would normally appear. What's more, the faintest of these highly magnified objects have intrinsic brightnesses roughly 10 to 20 times fainter than any galaxies ever previously observed.
The Hubble data are immediately being made available to the worldwide astronomy community where teams of researchers will do a detailed study of the visual crazy quilt of intermingled background and cluster galaxies to better understand the stages of galaxy development.
Though the foreground cluster Abell 2744 has been intensively studied as one of the most massive clusters in the universe, the Frontier Fields exposure reveals new details of the cluster population. Hubble sees dwarf galaxies in the cluster as small as 1/1,000th the mass of the Milky Way. At the other end of the size spectrum, Hubble detects the extended light from several monster central cluster galaxies that are as much as 100 times more massive than our Milky Way. Also visible is faint intra-cluster light from stars inside the cluster that have been stripped out of galaxies by gravitational interactions. These new deep images will also help astronomers map out the dark matter in the cluster with unprecedented detail, by charting its distorting effects on background light. An unseen form of matter, dark matter makes up the bulk of the mass of the cluster.
As the Abell cluster was being photographed with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, the telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys was trained on a nearby parallel field that is 6 arc minutes away from the cluster. In this field, Hubble resolves roughly 10,000 galaxies seen in visible light, most of which are randomly scattered galaxies. The blue galaxies are distant star-forming galaxies seen from up to 8 billion years ago; the handful of larger, red galaxies are in the outskirts of the Abell 2744 cluster.
Hubble will again view these two Frontier Fields in May 2014, but Hubble's visible-light and infrared camera will switch targets. This will allow for both fields to be observed over a full range of colors, from ultraviolet light to near-infrared.
With each new camera installed on Hubble, the space telescope has been used to make successively deeper, groundbreaking views of the universe. To get a better assessment of whether doing more deep field observations was scientifically compelling or urgent, the Space Telescope Science Institute or STScI in Baltimore, Md. chartered a "Hubble Deep Field Initiative" working group. The Hubble Frontier Fields initiative grew out of the working group's high-level discussions at STScI concerning what important, forward-looking science Hubble should be doing in upcoming years. Despite several deep field surveys, astronomers realized that a lot was still to be learned about the far universe. Such knowledge would help in planning the observing strategy for the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
The astronomers also considered synergies with other observatories, such as Spitzer, Chandra, and the new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array or ALMA. Over the coming years five more pairs of fields will be imaged. The next scheduled target is the massive cluster MACSJ 0416.1-2403, for which observations are starting this week.To see more images and information about The Frontier Fields, visit:
Ray Villard | Newswise
Telescopes team up to find distant Uranus-sized planet through microlensing
31.07.2015 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
California 'rain debt' equal to average full year of precipitation
31.07.2015 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.
What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...
Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.
The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News
31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics
31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy