The Hubble Space Telescope has taken a photograph of some of the earliest and most distant galaxies in the universe.
As part of the mission called Beyond Ultra-Deep Frontier Fields And Legacy Observations or BUFFALO, Hubble pointed its lenses toward a massive galaxy cluster named Abell 370 located 5 billion light-years away from Earth. The photograph also revealed numerous other galaxies that lie far beyond Abell 370.
What Hubble Saw
To take the amazing shot, Hubble used the galaxy clusters as "natural telescopes" that amplified the distant galaxies and supernovas. Because these galaxies are so far away and their lights were so faint, it was difficult to photograph and observe them without a boost.
The cosmological trick called gravitational lensing allowed Hubble to see across the Universe. It works by distributing matter, in this case, a cluster of galaxies, between the observer and a distant source, bending and manipulating the light coming from distant background galaxies that otherwise could not be detected even with the telescope's sensitive vision.
The feature dubbed as "the Dragon" is the best demonstration of gravitational lensing. Just below the center of the cluster is an extended feature that is made up of several duplicated images of a spiral galaxy forming an arc.
This is not the first time that Hubble used gravitational lensing to look at distant objects in the universe. Back in 2012, the telescope also photographed a distant galaxy 10 billion light-years away from Earth using the cosmic zoom lens created by a cluster of closer galaxies located 5 billion light-years away.
Looking Far Back
The primary mission of BUFFALO is to look far back into the creation of the universe as currently possible. The program hopes to take a close look at and identify galaxies in their earliest formation in the first 800 million years after the Big Bang.
BUFFALO is designed to succeed Frontier Fields, a similar project that was started in 2013 and ended in 2017. BUFFALO will expand the views on the six regions and their surroundings previously photographed by its predecessor.
"Driven by the Frontier Fields observations, BUFFALO will be able to detect the most distant galaxies approximately ten times more efficiently than its progenitor programme," said the team behind BUFFALO. "The BUFFALO survey will also take advantage of other space telescopes which have already observed the regions around the clusters."
The data will hopefully help scientists learn more about the evolution of the earliest galaxies in the universe.
The project is being led by European astronomers at the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark and the Durham University in the United Kingdom.
In a new observing campaign, Hubble uses 6 massive clusters as "natural telescopes" to look for amplified images of galaxies and supernovas that are so distant and faint that they could not be photographed without a phenomenon called gravitational lensing: https://t.co/9usREwGHgl pic.twitter.com/2sbJp9XwYO — Hubble (@NASAHubble) September 13, 2018