Science

Hubble Images Distant Galaxy Through Cutting-Edge Computer Analysis

Hubble Images Distant Galaxy Through Cutting-Edge Computer Analysis”

The improved images unveiled newborn stars in a distant galaxy that formed only 2.7 billion years after the Big Bang. Experts believed that such star-forming knots were 3,000 light years across, but this finding throws that theory into question.

In this Hubble photograph of a distant galaxy cluster, a spotty blue arc stands out against a background of red galaxies.

According to Rigby, 'With the Webb Telescope, we'll be able to tell you what happened in this galaxy in the past, and what we missed with Hubble because of dust'. And it's leading to exciting discoveries like this one. In order for astronomers to see the intricate spiral structure of IC 342, they must gaze through a large amount of material contained within our own galaxy - no easy feat!

Hubble trained its eye on a blurry disk galaxy 11 billion light-years away. A sea of young, blue stars is streaked with dark dust lanes and studded with bright pink patches that mark sites of star formation.

To capture more detailed images of a distant galaxy Hubble normally sees as unremarkable, astronomers took advantage of a natural phenomenon and used new computational methods. The result was two dozen clusters of newborn stars, from 200 to 300 light-years wide, located in the SDSS J1110+6459 galaxy cluster.

"When we saw the reconstructed image we said, "Wow, it looks like fireworks are going off everywhere", astronomer Jane Rigby of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement Thursday.

University of MI doctoral student in astronomy Traci Johnson led two of the three studies documenting Hubble's latest findings, and as she observed in a statement, the star-forming knots were "as far down in size as we can see".

The cluster of stars is one of more than 70 strongly lensed galaxies studied by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Gravitational lenses occur when the light from a more distant galaxy or quasar is warped by the gravity of a nearer object in the line of sight from Earth, as shown in this diagram.

However, the magnification also causes distortion in the image, and to resolve that to make the galaxy look as it would appear normally, a computer code was created and applied.

While scientists previously suspected star-forming regions in the early universe spanned upwards of 3,000 light-years, the new observations suggest some are much smaller, with each of the newfound "clumps" extending about 300 light-years. Johnson is the lead author on two of the three research papers describing Hubble's new results, which were published July 6 in the The Astrophysical Journal and the The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Johnson added that without gravitational lensing, the galaxy would be too far away for Hubble to study in any actual detail. Although this spiral galaxy is bright, it is hard to spot because of the glowing cosmic gas, bright stars, and dust around it, thus nicknamed "Hidden Galaxy" by astronomers. It can observe beyond the "obscuring dust within the galaxy" and uncover "older, redder stars that formed even earlier in the universe's history".

And, NASA explains, it will be able to look through any dust that may be in the way. NASA intends to operate the telescope into the 2030s.



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