Using massive clusters of galaxies as "cosmic telescopes," a research team led by a Johns Hopkins University astronomer has found what may be infant galaxies born in the first billion years after the beginning of the universe.
Figure 1. (Abell 2218) The figure shows a three color image of the massive cluster of galaxies Abell 2218 taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys in the Hubble Space Telescope. The distance to the cluster is approximately 2.5 billion light years. The blue arcs are star-forming galaxies that are behind the cluster approximately half way across the Universe. This is a beautiful example of a "cosmic telescope". Credit: H. Ford (JHU), W. Zheng (JHU), L. Infante (PUC), V. Motta(PUC, JHU), M. Postman (STScI), G. Illingworth (UCSC), M. Jee (JHU), R. White (STScI), N. Benitez (IAA), T. Broadhurst (Tel-Aviv Univ.), and NASA
If these findings are confirmed, the extra magnification provided by these gargantuan natural telescopes will have given astronomers their best-ever view of galaxies as they formed in the early universe, more than 12 billion years ago, said Holland Ford, a professor in the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy at the universitys Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Ford is the head of the Hubble Space Telescopes Advanced Camera for Surveys Science Team, which also includes researchers from the Space Telescope Science Institute, PUC in Chile, and other universities around the world.
Ford announced the teams results this morning at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The teams spectroscopic observations were made possible, he said, by gravitational lensing, the bending of light caused by gravitys warping of space in the presence of such massive objects as clusters of galaxies.
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