The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a spectacular image depicting a large collection of galaxies that surrounds four billion light years from Earth. Abell 370 is the first goal of a new Hubble mission called the BUFFALO Survey, which aims to broaden our understanding of the cosmos by searching for some of the earliest and most distant galaxies in the universe. Hubble has already discovered some of the oldest known galaxies, but it has only observed a handful, making it difficult for astronomers to know if they represent the universe as a whole.
Hubble has already discovered some of the oldest known galaxies. ] In the search for early and distant galaxies, a cosmological trick called "gravity lenses" can help astronomers see weak objects that can not be seen otherwise.
We can see lenses at work very clearly in the latest picture. Essentially, we can think of it as the magnifying glass of nature. Abell 370's massive mass ̵
This can be seen several times in the picture and is perhaps best demonstrated by a feature that is visible just below the middle of the divide, which has been nicknamed "Dragon". It consists of several duplicate images of a spiral galaxy that lies outside the Abell 370, about five billion light years away.
The BUFFALO survey – which stands for "Beyond Ultra Deep Fields and Legacy Observations" was designed to succeed in the Frontier Fields project, which observed the same six galaxy clusters. BUFFALO's main purpose is to investigate how and when the most massive and bright galaxies in the universe were formed and how early the galaxy formation is associated with the installation of dark matter.
This will enable astronomers to determine how fast the galaxies were formed during the first 800 million years after the Big Bang paving the way for future observations with the upcoming James Webb Telescope – a next generation space observatory.
BUFFALO will be able to detect the most distant galaxies around ten times more efficiently than the Frontier Fields program due to the expanded field of vision. This will enable better three-dimensional mapping of the mass distribution of both common and dark matter within each galaxy cluster. ] heic1816a ” title=””/>
Dark matter is a hypothetical substance that scientists believe comprise about 85 percent of all matter in the universe, but so far it has never been observed directly. It does not seem to interact with observable electromagnetic radiation, such as light, making it extremely difficult to detect with normal astronomical technology.
Hubble, operated jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency, has been around for more than 28 years. During that time, it has captured some of the most dramatic and striking images of our universe. Although not the first space observatory is to be launched, it is both one of the largest and most versatile, giving astronomers a variety of options to observe the cosmos.