Hubble Space Telescope Provides Deepest-Ever Observations of the Universe
9 January 2014
The first in a series of deep observations of the universe made by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was revealed this week during the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
The images were taken as part of the Frontier Fields program and represent the deepest-ever observations of a cluster of galaxies. They also capture some of the faintest and youngest galaxies ever seen in space.
The images focus on Abell 2744, a group of several hundred galaxies more than 3.5 billion light years away. What's unique about this cluster is its huge gravity, which acts as a "gravitational lens" that allowed Hubble to see more distant ancient galaxies and magnify and brighten the images to show how they looked more than 12 billion years ago.
The Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA's two other Great Observatories, were also used for observations as part of the Frontier Fields program. The images captured by them, together with the Hubble Space observations, are expected to shed further light on the origin and evolution of galaxies and black holes.
The Hubble images show almost 3,000 background galaxies alongside hundreds of other galaxies in the foreground of the cluster thanks to the gravitational lensing phenomenon, which made the background galaxies visible. On the photos they look up to 10-20 times larger than they usually appear, and the faintest of those galaxies have intrinsic brightness around 10-20 times dimmer than any galaxies observed previously, according to NASA officials.
Abell 2744 has been explored before, but the Frontier Fields images provide new details about the cluster. The telescope has taken images of dwarf galaxies that are one-thousandth the mass of the Milky Way, as well as galaxies that are 100 times more massive than our galaxy.