NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes have begun their quest to look deeper into the universe.
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 programme 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” John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said.
“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,” he said
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.