Space

October 25, 2013

NASA’s great observatories begin deepest ever probe of universe

NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes are teaming up to look deeper into the universe than ever before. With a boost from natural “zoom lenses” found in space, they should be able to uncover galaxies that are as much as 100 times fainter than what these three great observatories typically can see.

In an ambitious collaborative program called The Frontier Fields, astronomers will make observations over the next three years of six massive galaxy clusters, exploiting a natural phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, to learn not only what is inside the clusters but also what is beyond them. The clusters are among the most massive assemblages of matter known, and their gravitational fields can be used to brighten and magnify more distant galaxies so they can be observed.

“The Frontier Fields program is exactly what NASA’s great observatories were designed to do; working together to unravel the mysteries of the Universe” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Each observatory collects images using different wavelengths of light with the result that we get a much deeper understanding of the underlying physics of these celestial objects.”

The first object they will view is Abell 2744, commonly known as Pandora’s Cluster. The giant galaxy cluster appears to be the result of a simultaneous pile-up of at least four separate, smaller galaxy clusters that took place over a span of 350 million years.

Astronomers anticipate these observations will reveal populations of galaxies that existed when the universe was only a few hundred million years old, but have not been seen before.

“The idea is to use nature’s natural telescopes in combination with the great observatories to look much deeper than before and find the most distant and faint galaxies we can possibly see,” said Jennifer Lotz, a principal investigator with the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md.

Data from the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes will be combined to measure the galaxies’ distances and masses more accurately than either observatory could measure alone, demonstrating their synergy for such studies.

“We want to understand when and how the first stars and galaxies formed in the universe, and each great observatory gives us a different piece of the puzzle,” said Peter Capak, the Spitzer principal investigator for the Frontier Fields program. “Hubble tells you which galaxies to look at and how many stars are being born in those systems. Spitzer tells you how old the galaxy is and how many stars have formed.”

The Chandra X-ray Observatory also will peer deep into the star fields. It will image the clusters at X-ray wavelengths to help determine their mass and measure their gravitational lensing power, and identify background galaxies hosting supermassive black holes.

High-resolution Hubble data from the Frontier Fields program will be used to trace the distribution of dark matter within the six massive foreground clusters. Accounting for the bulk of the universe’s mass, dark matter is the underlying invisible scaffolding attached to galaxies.

Hubble and Spitzer have studied other deep fields with great success. The Frontier Fields researchers anticipate a challenge because the distortion and magnification caused by the gravitational lensing phenomenon will make it difficult for them to understand the true properties of the background galaxies.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
ball-satelilte

Ball Aerospace integrates two of five instruments for JPSS-1

Two of the five instruments scheduled to fly on the nation’s next polar-orbiting weather satellite, NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System -1, have been integrated to the spacecraft bus by prime contractor Ball Aerospa...
 
 
NASA/JPL photograph

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures best-ever view of dwarf planet

Zoomed out – PIA19173 Ceres appears sharper than ever at 43 pixels across, a higher resolution than images of Ceres taken by the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 2003 and 2004. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has retur...
 
 
ATK

ATK completes installation of world’s largest solid rocket motor for ground test

ATK The first qualification motor for NASA’s Space Launch Systems booster is installed in ATK’s test stand in Utah – ready for a March 11 static-fire test. NASA and ATK have completed installing the first Spac...
 

 
ULA photograph

Third Lockheed Martin-built MUOS satellite launched, responding to commands

ULA photograph The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing successfully launched the third Mobile User Objective System satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, for the U.S. Navy at 8:04 p.m. Jan. 20, 2015, from Launch Complex 41 at...
 
 
ULA photograph

ULA successfully launches Navy’s Mobile User Objective System-3

ULA photograph The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing successfully launched the third Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, for the U.S. Navy at 8:04 p.m. Jan. 20, 2015, from Launch Comple...
 
 

Aerojet Rocketdyne Propulsion supports launch, flight of third MUOS satellite

Aerojet Rocketdyne played a critical role in successfully placing the third of five planned Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-3) satellites, designed and built by Lockheed Martin, into orbit for the U.S. Navy. The mission was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, with five Aerojet...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>