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  • richardmitnick 9:15 am on February 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Faintest galaxies yet seen in the early universe, , Gravitational Lensing, ,   

    From U Texas at Austin: “Astronomers Find Faintest Early Galaxies Yet, Probe How the Early Universe Lit Up” 

    U Texas Austin bloc

    University of Texas at Austin

    08 February 2017
    No writer credit

    Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new technique to discover the faintest galaxies yet seen in the early universe —10 times fainter than any previously seen.

    A Hubble Space Telescope view of the galaxy cluster Abell 2744.

    These galaxies will help astronomers probe a little-understood, but important period in cosmic history. Their new technique helps probe the time a billion years after the Big Bang, when the early, dark universe was flooded with light from the first galaxies.

    Rachael Livermore and Steven Finkelstein of the UT Austin Astronomy Department, along with Jennifer Lotz of the Space Telescope Science Institute, went looking for these faint galaxies in images from Hubble Space Telescope’s Frontier Fields survey.

    A Hubble Space Telescope view of the galaxy cluster MACS 0416 is annotated in cyan and magenta to show how it acts as a ‘gravitational lens,’ magnifying more distant background galaxies.

    “These galaxies are actually extremely common,” Livermore said. “It’s very satisfying being able to find them.”

    These faint, early galaxies gave rise to the Epoch of Reionization, when the energetic radiation they gave off bombarded the gas between all galaxies in the universe. This caused the atoms in this diffuse gas to lose their electrons (that is, become ionized).

    Finkelstein explained why finding these faint galaxies is so important. “We knew ahead of time that for our idea of galaxy-powered reionization to work, there had to be galaxies a hundred times fainter than we could see with Hubble,” he said, “and they had to be really, really common.” This was why the Hubble Frontier Fields program was created, he said.

    Lotz leads the Hubble Frontier Fields project, one of the telescope’s largest to date. In it, Hubble photographed several large galaxy clusters. These were selected to take advantage of their enormous mass which causes a useful optical effect, predicted by Albert Einstein. A galaxy cluster’s immense gravity bends space, which magnifies light from more-distant galaxies behind it as that light travels toward the telescope. Thus the galaxy cluster acts as a magnifying glass, or a “gravitational lens,” allowing astronomers to see those more-distant galaxies — ones they would not normally be able to detect, even with Hubble.

    Even then, though, the lensed galaxies were still just at the cusp of what Hubble could detect.

    “The main motivation for the Frontier Fields project was to search for these extremely faint galaxies during this critical period in the universe’s history,” Lotz said. “However, the primary difficulty with using the Frontier Field clusters as an extra magnifying glass is how to correct for the contamination from the light of the cluster galaxies.”

    Livermore elaborates: “The problem is, you’re trying to find these really faint things, but you’re looking behind these really bright things. The brightest galaxies in the universe are in clusters, and those cluster galaxies are blocking the background galaxies we’re trying to observe. So what I did was come up with a method of removing the cluster galaxies” from the images.

    Her method uses modeling to identify and separate light from the foreground galaxies (the cluster galaxies) from the light coming from the background galaxies (the more-distant, lensed galaxies).

    According to Lotz, “This work is unique in its approach to removing this light. This has allowed us to detect more and fainter galaxies than seen in previous studies, and to achieve the primary goal for the Frontier Fields survey.”

    Livermore and Finkelstein have used the new method on two of the galaxy clusters in the Frontier Fields project: Abell 2744 and MACS 0416. It enabled them to identify faint galaxies seen when the universe was about a billion years old, less than 10 percent of its current age — galaxies 100 times fainter than those found in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, for instance, which is the deepest image of the night sky yet obtained.

    Their observations showed that these faint galaxies are extremely numerous, consistent with the idea that large numbers of extremely faint galaxies were the main power source behind reionization.

    There are four Frontier Fields clusters left, and the team plans to study them all with Livermore’s method. In future, she said, they would like to use the James Webb Space Telescope to study even fainter galaxies.

    The work is published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

    See the full article here .

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    U Texas Arlington Campus

    In 1839, the Congress of the Republic of Texas ordered that a site be set aside to meet the state’s higher education needs. After a series of delays over the next several decades, the state legislature reinvigorated the project in 1876, calling for the establishment of a “university of the first class.” Austin was selected as the site for the new university in 1881, and construction began on the original Main Building in November 1882. Less than one year later, on Sept. 15, 1883, The University of Texas at Austin opened with one building, eight professors, one proctor, and 221 students — and a mission to change the world. Today, UT Austin is a world-renowned higher education, research, and public service institution serving more than 51,000 students annually through 18 top-ranked colleges and schools.

  • richardmitnick 10:55 pm on February 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "cosmic lenses", Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH), Gravitational Lensing, , Supernova Cosmology Project   

    From Hubble: “Hubble Astronomers Check the Prescription of a Cosmic Lens” From May 1, 2014 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    If you need to check whether the prescription for your eye glasses or contact lenses is still accurate, you visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. The doctor will ask you to read an eye chart, which tests your visual acuity. Your score helps the doctor determine whether to change your prescription.

    Astronomers don’t have a giant eye chart to check the prescription for natural cosmic lenses, created by galaxy clusters. The gravity of these cosmic lenses warps space around them, magnifying and brightening the light from distant objects behind them. Without these lenses, background objects would be too dim to be detected by even NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. But how do astronomers know whether the prescription for these zoom lenses, which tells them how much an object will be magnified, is accurate? Astronomers using the Hubble telescope have discovered the next best thing to a giant cosmic eye chart: the light from distant exploding stars behind galaxy clusters.

    Donna Weaver
    Space Science Telescope Institute, Baltimore, Md.

    Ray Villard
    Space Science Telescope Institute, Baltimore, Md.

    Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Perlmutter (UC Berkeley, LBNL), A. Koekemoer (STScI), M. Postman (STScI), A. Riess (STScI/JHU), J. Nordin (LBNL, UC Berkeley), D. Rubin (Florida State University), and C. McCully (Rutgers University)


    What could be more exciting than watching the fireworks of cataclysmic stellar explosions outshining entire galaxies of stars? How about watching them through the funhouse lens of a massive cluster of galaxies whose powerful gravity warps space around it?

    In fact, distant exploding stars observed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope are providing astronomers with a powerful tool to check the prescription of these natural “cosmic lenses,” which are used to provide a magnified view of the remote universe.

    Two teams of astronomers working independently have found three such exploding stars, called supernovae, far behind massive clusters of galaxies. Their light was amplified and brightened by the immense gravity of the foreground clusters in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. First predicted by Albert Einstein, this effect is similar to a glass lens bending light to form an image. Astronomers use the gravitational-lensing technique to search for distant objects that might otherwise be too faint to see, even with today’s largest telescopes.

    Astronomers from the Supernova Cosmology Project and the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH), are using these supernovae in a new method to check the predicted magnification, or prescription, of the gravitational lenses. Luckily, two and possibly all three of the supernovae appear to be a special type of exploding star called Type Ia supernovae, prized by astronomers because they provide a consistent level of peak brightness that makes them reliable for making distance estimates.

    “Here we have found Type Ia supernovae that can be used like an eye chart for each lensing cluster,” explained Saurabh Jha of Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., a member of the CLASH team. “Because we can estimate the intrinsic brightness of the Type Ia supernovae, we can independently measure the magnification of the lens, unlike for other background sources.”

    Having a precise prescription for a gravitational lens will help astronomers probe objects in the early universe and better understand a galaxy cluster’s structure and its distribution of dark matter, say researchers. Dark matter cannot be seen directly but is believed to make up most of the universe’s matter.

    How much a gravitationally lensed object is magnified depends on the amount of matter in a cluster, including dark matter, which is the source of most of a cluster’s gravity. Astronomers develop maps that estimate the location and amount of dark matter in a cluster based on theoretical models and on the observed amplification and bending of light from sources behind the cluster. The maps are the lens prescriptions that predict how distant objects behind the cluster are magnified when their light passes through it.

    “Building on our understanding of these lensing models also has implications for a wide range of key cosmological studies,” explained Supernova Cosmology Project leader Saul Perlmutter of the E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley. “These lens prescriptions yield measurements of the cluster masses, allowing us to probe the cosmic competition between gravity and dark energy as matter in the universe gets pulled into galaxy clusters.” Dark energy is a mysterious, invisible energy that is accelerating the universe’s expansion.

    The three supernovae in the Hubble study were each gravitationally lensed by a different cluster. The teams measured the brightnesses of the lensed supernovae and compared them to the explosions’ intrinsic brightnesses to calculate how much they were magnified due to gravitational lensing. One supernova in particular stood out, appearing to be about twice as bright as would have been expected if not for the cluster’s magnification power.

    The supernovae were discovered in the CLASH survey, a Hubble census that probed the distribution of dark matter in 25 galaxy clusters. Two of the supernovae were found in 2012, the other in 2010. The three supernovae exploded between 7 billion and 9 billion years ago, when the universe was slightly less than half its current age of 13.8 billion years old.

    To perform their analyses, both teams of astronomers used observations in visible light from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and in infrared light from the Wide Field Camera 3. The research teams also obtained spectra from both space and ground-based telescopes that provided independent estimates of the distances to these exploding stars. In some cases the spectra allowed direct confirmation of a Type Ia pedigree. In other cases the supernova spectrum was weak or overwhelmed by the light of its parent galaxy. In those cases the astronomers also used different colored filters on Hubble to help establish the supernova type.

    Each team then compared its results with independent theoretical models of the clusters’ dark-matter content, concluding that the predictions fit the models.

    “It is encouraging that the two independent studies reach quite similar conclusions,” explained Supernova Cosmology Project team member Jakob Nordin of Berkeley Lab and the University of California, Berkeley. “These pilot studies provide very good guidelines for making future observations of lensed supernovae even more accurate.” Nordin also is the lead author on the team’s science paper describing the findings.

    Now that the researchers have proven the effectiveness of this method, they need to find more Type Ia supernovae behind behemoth lensing galaxy clusters. In fact, the astronomers estimate they need about 20 supernovae spread out behind a cluster so they can map the entire cluster field and ensure that the lens model is correct.

    They are optimistic that Hubble and future telescopes, including NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, an infrared observatory, will nab more of these unique exploding stars.

    “Hubble is already hunting for them in the Frontier Fields, a three-year Hubble survey of the distant universe using massive galaxy clusters as gravitational lenses,” said CLASH team member Brandon Patel of Rutgers University, the lead author on the science paper announcing the CLASH team’s results. Steven Rodney of Johns Hopkins University, and co-leader of the CLASH supernova team, will direct the search for Type Ia supernovae in the Frontier Fields data.

    The CLASH team’s results will appear in the May 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal and the Supernova Cosmology Project’s findings in the May 1 edition of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    The CLASH survey is led by Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. The CLASH supernova project is co-led by Rodney and Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University. Aiding with the analysis on the Hubble study are Curtis McCully of Rutgers University, Or Graur of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and Julian Merten and Adi Zitrin of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

    Other members of the Supernova Cosmology Project who worked on the supernova analysis are David Rubin of Florida State University in Tallahassee and Greg Aldering of Berkeley Lab. The project’s galaxy cluster models were created by Johan Richard of the University of Lyon in France and Jean-Paul Kneib of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

    See the full article here .

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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    NASA image

  • richardmitnick 2:57 pm on January 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Gravitational Lensing, iPTF16geu, Supernova Refsdal, , University of California Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory   

    From AAS NOVA: ” The Search for Lensed Supernovae” 


    American Astronomical Society

    20 January 2017
    Susanna Kohler

    Supernova Refsdal, seen in quadruplicate in the inset of this Hubble image, is one of only two supernovae we’ve observed to have multiple images caused by gravitational lensing. The other (not shown) is a Type Ia supernova, iPTF16geu. A new study discusses the prospects for discovering more multiply-imaged Type Ia supernovae. [NASA/ESA/STScI/UCLA]

    Type Ia supernovae that have multiple images due to gravitational lensing can provide us with a wealth of information — both about the supernovae themselves and about our surrounding universe. But how can we find these rare explosions?

    Clues from Multiple Images

    An illustration of gravitational lensing. Light from the distant supernova is bent as it passes through a giant elliptical galaxy in the foreground, causing multiple images of the supernova to appear to be hosted by the elliptical galaxy. [Adapted from image by NASA/ESA/A. Feild (STScI)]

    Clues from Multiple Images

    When light from a distant object passes by a massive foreground galaxy, the galaxy’s strong gravitational pull can bend the light, distorting our view of the background object. In severe cases, this process can cause multiple images of the distant object to appear in the foreground lensing galaxy.

    Observations of multiply-imaged Type Ia supernovae (explosions that occur when white dwarfs in binary systems exceed their maximum allowed mass) could answer a number of astronomical questions. Because Type Ia supernovae are standard candles, distant, lensed Type Ia supernovae can be used to extend the Hubble diagram to high redshifts. Furthermore, the lensing time delays from the multiply-imaged explosion can provide high-precision constraints on cosmological parameters.

    The catch? So far, we’ve only found one multiply-imaged Type Ia supernova: iPTF16geu, discovered late last year. We’re going to need a lot more of them to develop a useful sample! So how do we identify the mutiply-imaged Type Ias among the many billions of fleeting events discovered in current and future surveys of transients?

    Absolute magnitudes for Type Ia supernovae in elliptical galaxies. None are expected to be above -20 in the B band, so if we calculate a magnitude for a Type Ia supernova that’s larger than this, it’s probably not hosted by the galaxy we think it is! [Goldstein & Nugent 2017]

    Searching for Anomalies

    Two scientists from University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have a plan. In a recent publication [citation below], Daniel Goldstein and Peter Nugent propose the following clever procedure to apply to data from transient surveys:

    From the data, select only the supernova candidates that appear to be hosted by quiescent elliptical galaxies.
    Use the host galaxies’ photometric redshifts to calculate absolute magnitudes for the supernovae in this sample.
    Select from this only the supernovae above the maximum absolute magnitude expected for Type Ia supernovae.

    Supernovae selected in this way are likely tricking us: their apparent hosts are probably not their hosts at all! Instead, the supernova is likely behind the galaxy, and the galaxy is just lensing its light. Using this strategy therefore allows us to select supernova candidates that are most likely to be distant, gravitationally lensed Type Ia supernovae.

    Redshift distribution of the multiply-imaged Type Ia supernovae the authors estimate will be detectable by ZTF and LSST in their respective 3- and 10-year survey durations. [Goldstein & Nugent 2017]

    A convenient aspect of Goldstein and Nugent’s technique is that we don’t need to be able to resolve the lensed multiple images for discovery. This is useful, because ground-based optical surveys don’t have the resolution to see the separate images — yet they’ll still be useful for discovering multiply-imaged supernovae.

    Future Prospects

    How useful? Goldstein and Nugent use Monte Carlo simulations to estimate how many multiply-imaged Type Ia supernovae will be discoverable with future survey projects. They find that the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), which will begin operating this year, should be able to find up to 10 using this technique in a 3-year search.

    The Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) | Bryan Penprase

    The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which should start operating in 2022, will be able to find around 500 multiply-imaged Type Ia supernovae in a 10-year survey.

    LSST/Camera, built at SLAC
    LSST/Camera, built at SLAC
    LSST Interior
    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.
    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.


    Daniel A. Goldstein and Peter E. Nugent 2017 ApJL 834 L5. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/834/1/L5

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:39 pm on January 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Gravitational Lensing, Inside Science   

    From Dark Energy Survey via Inside Science: “Computer Science Technique Helps Astronomers Explore the Universe” 

    Dark Energy Icon

    The Dark Energy Survey


    Inside Science

    “Deep learning” finds telltale arcs of light that indicate massive objects.

    Image credits: Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator

    January 13, 2017
    Ramin Skibba

    Google uses “deep learning” to generate captions for images, Facebook uses it to recognize faces and Tesla uses it to train self-driving cars. Now astronomers have caught on to deep learning, a form of machine learning in which a computer can be trained to identify or classify particular objects in images.

    The newest telescopes, such as the Dark Energy Survey, which uses a 4-meter telescope in northern Chile and covers about one quarter of the southern sky, take millions of images of a variety of celestial objects. These often include visual distortions, cosmic rays and satellite trails that make them difficult to interpret. Deep learning could help process this deluge of data quickly.

    “Astronomy is the next frontier to take it on,” said Brian Nord, an astrophysicist at Fermilab [FNAL] in Batavia, Illinois.

    Nord is one of a group of astrophysicists who search for rare gravitational lenses with signs of curved slivers of light or duplicated images that indicate the presence of massive objects skewing light rays.

    Gravitational Lensing NASA/ESA
    Gravitational Lensing NASA/ESA
    Gravitational microlensing, S. Liebes, Physical Review B, 133 (1964): 835
    Gravitational microlensing, S. Liebes, Physical Review B, 133 (1964): 835

    The scientists often have to sift through numerous images by eye, one at a time. But now they have a potentially game-changing technique at their disposal.

    Massive objects in space — like clusters of galaxies combined with dark matter hidden from view — distort the light we see from faraway galaxies and quasars, deflecting and warping the light rays around them. Distant galaxies look like magnified arcs, as if seen through the edge of a cosmic magnifying glass.

    Scientists have found hundreds of such lenses so far, confirming predictions of general relativity theory by Albert Einstein and others in the 1930s. With newly developed deep learning tools, astronomers expect to find at least 2,000 more with the Dark Energy Survey, according to research presented by Nord at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, Texas on Jan. 4. A big catalog of gravitational lenses would help astronomers learn more about the nature of dark matter and how it holds galaxies together.

    Finding gravitational lenses is like finding needles in haystacks far away, when no two needles or haystacks are alike. “Deep learning is a way for us to create a model of a complicated system,” Nord said.

    To make complex classifications, astronomers have long used statistical machine learning techniques like neural networks, which are programmed systems with layered nodes connected in a web, much like neurons in the human brain. Deep learning just involves more interconnected layers or steps in the computation, including “hidden” ones of increasing complexity as the algorithm proceeds from input to output.

    For example, with facial recognition software, someone feeds in an image, and the system first detects edges, lines and curves. Intermediate layers then put together higher-level features, like eyes or a mouth, and eventually a face. For gravitational lenses, the software would gradually recognize a big galaxy surrounded by arcs, indicating lensed background objects.

    After it’s been trained with many lens images, such an algorithm can then find new lenses in images it has never encountered before. The current state-of-the-art algorithms can correctly identify these lenses all but a few percent of the time, when they mistake a particularly messy image for the real thing.

    “If it works but is 97 percent accurate, you could be vastly swamped by false positives,” said Colin Jacobs, who along with Karl Glazebrook at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, is also working on the problem. “Ideally, it should be more accurate than what you’d need for computer vision or facial recognition,” he added.

    To address this challenge, Nord and Jacobs and their colleagues could design the algorithm to be strict, ensuring that it finds the cream of the crop, the clearest lenses in a survey. But this risks missing many lenses. Alternatively, they are trying to be more lenient in their search criteria, knowing it would mean later weeding out by hand some images that happen to look a bit like lenses.

    Over the past couple years, astronomers have begun to apply deep learning in other areas as well, mostly for deciphering images in other ways. They have used the techniques to distinguish between distant galaxies and stars in the Milky Way, to estimate the distance to faraway objects and to categorize the structures of galaxies, which can take on a variety of spiral and elliptical shapes.

    Others have utilized citizen science, recruiting people around the world to help sort through images. A project called Galaxy Zoo, for example, has classified the structures of hundreds of thousands of galaxies, while another, called Space Warps, has discovered dozens of candidate gravitational lenses missed by others.

    Nord applauds these efforts, but if his software works as well as advertised, “deep learning has the potential to be much faster,” he said.

    See the full article here .

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    DECam, built at FNAL
    DECam, built at FNAL
    CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope
    CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope interior
    CTIO Victor M Blanco Telescope at Cerro Tololo which houses the DECAm

    The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is designed to probe the origin of the accelerating universe and help uncover the nature of dark energy by measuring the 14-billion-year history of cosmic expansion with high precision. More than 120 scientists from 23 institutions in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Germany are working on the project. This collaboration [has built] an extremely sensitive 570-Megapixel digital camera, DECam, and [has mounted] it on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory high in the Chilean Andes. Started in Sept. 2012 and continuing for five years, DES will survey a large swath of the southern sky out to vast distances in order to provide new clues to this most fundamental of questions.

  • richardmitnick 1:36 pm on October 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cosmic Horseshoe, , Gravitational Lensing,   

    From UC Riverside: “The Cosmic Horseshoe Is Not the Lucky Beacon That Astronomers Had Hoped For” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    UC Riverside


    A UC Riverside-lead team of astronomers used a new approach by using the gravitationally lensed galaxy to try to measure the escaping fraction of photons.



    Around 380,000 years after the Big Bang, electrons and protons bound together to form hydrogen atoms for the first time. They make up more than 90% of the atoms in the universe, and can very efficiently absorb high-energy photons and become ionized. However, there were very few energetic sources to ionize these atoms in the early universe. One billion years after the Big Bang, the material between the galaxies was reionized (transparent). The main energy source of the reionization is widely believed to be massive stars formed within early galaxies. These stars had a short lifespan and were usually born in the midst of dense gas clouds, which made it very hard for ionizing photons to escape their host galaxies.

    Previous studies suggested that about 20 percent of these ionizing photons need to escape the dense-gas environment of their host galaxies to significantly contribute to the reionization of the material between galaxies. Unfortunately, a direct detection of these ionizing photons is very challenging and previous efforts have not been very successful. Therefore, the mechanisms leading to their escape are poorly understood.

    This has led many astrophysicists to use indirect methods to estimate the fraction of ionizing photons that escape the galaxies. In one popular method, the gas is assumed to have a “picket fence” distribution, where the space between the stars and the edges of galaxies is assumed to be composed of either regions of very little gas, which are transparent to ionizing light, or regions of dense gas, which are opaque. Researchers can determine the fraction of each of these regions by studying the light (spectra) emerging from the galaxies.

    In this new study, astronomers directly measured the fraction of ionizing photons escaping from the Cosmic Horseshoe. The Horseshoe is a distant galaxy that is gravitationally lensed. Gravitational lensing is the deformation and amplification of a background object by the curving of space and time due to the mass of a foreground galaxy”, said Kaveh Vasei, graduate student of astronomy at UC Riverside and lead author of the new study. “The details of the galaxy in the background are therefore magnified, allowing us to study its light and physical properties more clearly.”


    Based on the picket fence model, an escape fraction of 40% for ionizing photons from the Horseshoe was expected. Therefore, the Horseshoe represented an ideal opportunity to get a clear, resolved image of leaking ionizing photons for the first time, to help us understand the mechanisms by which they escape their host galaxies.

    The research team obtained a deep-image of the Horseshoe with the Hubble Space Telescope in an ultraviolet filter, enabling them to directly detect escaping ionizing photons. Surprisingly, the image did not detect ionizing photons coming from the Horseshoe. This team constrained the fraction of escaping photons to be less than 8%, five times smaller than what had been inferred by indirect methods widely used by astronomers.

    “The study concludes that the previously determined fraction of escaping ionizing radiation of galaxies, as estimated by the most popular indirect method, is likely overestimated in many galaxies,” added Prof. Brian Siana, co-author of the research paper and a professor at UC Riverside. “The team is now focusing on direct determination the fraction of escaping ionizing photons that do not rely on indirect estimates.”

    This paper has been published in the Astrophysical Journal and is authored by Kaveh Vasei (UC Riverside), Brian Siana (UC Riverside), Alice E. Shapley (UCLA), Anna M. Quider (University of Cambridge, UK), Anahita Alavi (UC Riverside), Marc Rafelski (Goddard Space Flight Center / NASA), Charles C. Steidel (Caltech), Max Pettini (University of Cambridge, UK), Geraint F. Lewis (University of Sydney)

    See the full article here .

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    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

    See the full article here .

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    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

  • richardmitnick 9:00 am on October 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , GLENDAMA, Gravitational Lensing, Liverpool Telescope, SDSS J1339+1310   

    From Liverpool Telescope: “LT tracks rare microlensed quasar” 

    Liverpool Telescope

    Liverpool Telescope

    18 October 2016

    Light from quasar is bent by intervening galaxy’s gravity, causing double image (A & B) at Earth. Quasar image inset is real LT data. © 2016 LT group.

    Lightcurve of quasar images A & B from 2009-2016 (dates along top axis). From paper by Goicoechea and Shalyapin (2016).

    In a paper entitled Gravitational lens system SDSS J1339+1310: microlensing factory and time delay currently in preprint at arXiv , authors Luis Julian Goicoechea Santamaria and Vyacheslav Shalyapin reveal how the Liverpool Telescope (LT) has been used to characterise a gravitational lens created by a foreground galaxy in direct line with a much more distant quasar.

    Light from the quasar that is heading in the general direction of Earth is passing either side of the foreground galaxy, and is being bent by the galaxy’s gravity to meet at a focus at the Solar System.

    From Earth we therefore see two images of the quasar, but because each light path takes a slightly different route around the galaxy, one longer than the other, the images are out of sync. Therefore any disturbance or variation in brightness from the quasar will be seen first in one image, and then repeated after some delay in the other image.

    The LT data has not only revealed the time delay between both images, and also that the lensing galaxy is causing microlensing with its constituent stars along the light paths from the quasar.

    Since 2005, the Gravitational LENses and DArk MAtter (GLENDAMA) team has been conducting optical monitoring of about 10 gravitationally lensed quasars with the LT. For each target, the main goals are to measure time delays between the multiple quasar images, as well as analyse the intrinsic variability of the lensed source and the possible flux variations caused by microlenses (stars) in the lensing galaxy.

    After an 8-year monitoring campaign of the double quasar SDSS J1339+1310 in SDSS-R band, the LT light curves of its two images, A and B, are characterised by typical photometric accuracies of 1-2% and an average sampling rate of once every 6 days (excluding gaps).

    These light curves show parallel V-shaped variations, which allowed the GLENDAMA team to determine a time delay of 47 days with 10% precision.

    In addition, the accurate follow-up observations of both images reveal the presence of significant microlensing-induced flux variations on different timescales, including rapid microlensing events lasting 50-100 days.

    While the strong microlensing activity precludes a more accurate estimation of the delay between A and B, the rapid events are very rare phenomena, and thus unique tools for astrophysical studies.

    Optical spectra taken with the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) confirm that the system SDSS J1339+1310 is an unusual “microlensing factory”, since appreciable microlensing-induced spectral distortions are also detected.

    Gran Telescopio  Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, Spain
    Gran Telescopio Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, Spain

    The paper was accepted in September 2016 for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, and is expected to be published soon.

    See the full article here .

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    The Liverpool Telescope (LT) is a 2-metre (6.6 ft) fully robotic Ritchey–Chrétien telescope that observes autonomously; i.e., it operates without human intervention. Professional astronomers and other registered users submit observation specifications to be considered by the telescope’s robotic control system (RCS) at any time of the day or night using an online GUI. Each night the RCS decides for itself what to observe next based on target visibility and weather conditions.

    The RCS additionally has a rapid-response capability where it can automatically interrupt regular observations to slew to observe transient phenomena with higher priority, such as gamma-ray bursts.

    The LT is one of the largest robotic telescopes in the world and was built by Telescope Technologies Ltd, a subsidiary company set up by Liverpool John Moores University. The telescope is owned by Liverpool John Moores University, and operated by the Astrophysics Research Institute with operational funding partly from STFC. It is sited at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma.

    Along with the Faulkes Telescope North and the Faulkes Telescope South, the Liverpool Telescope is also available for use by school children around the world over the internet. The registration and time allocation for the LT is organised by the National Schools Observatory.

    The Liverpool Telescope is one of the primary players in the Heterogeneous Telescope Networks Consortium, a global collaboration between major research groups in the field of robotic telescopes which seeks a standard for communication between remote telescopes, telescope users, and other scientific resources.

    Plans for an improved version of the telescope, the Liverpool Telescope 2, are underway.

  • richardmitnick 6:43 am on July 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ancient Eye in the Sky, , , Gravitational Lensing,   

    From NAOJ Subaru: “Ancient Eye in the Sky” 



    July 25, 2016
    No writer credit found

    Light from a distant galaxy can be strongly bent by the gravitational influence of a foreground galaxy. That effect is called strong gravitational lensing. Normally a single galaxy is lensed at a time. The same foreground galaxy can – in theory – simultaneously lens multiple background galaxies. Although extremely rare, such a lens system offers a unique opportunity to probe the fundamental physics of galaxies and add to our understanding of cosmology. One such lens system has recently been discovered and the discovery was made not in an astronomer’s office, but in a classroom. It has been dubbed the Eye of Horus (Fig. 1), and this ancient eye in the sky will help us understand the history of the universe.

    Figure 1: Eye of Horus in pseudo color. Enlarged image to the right (field of view of 23 arcseconds x 19 arcseconds) show two arcs/rings with different colors. The inner arc has a reddish hue, while the outer arc has a blue tint. These arcs are lensed images of the two background galaxies. There are blobs in and around the arcs/rings, which are also the lensed images of those background galaxies. The yellow-ish object at the center is a massive galaxy at z = 0.79 (distance 7 billion light years), which bends the light from the two background galaxies. The wide field image in the background is here. Enlarged image of the Eye of Horus is here and the image with labels is here. (Credit: NAOJ)

    Classroom Research Pays Off

    Subaru Telescope organizes a school for undergraduate students each year. One such session was held in September 2015 at the NAOJ headquarters in Mitaka, Tokyo (Fig. 2). Subaru is currently undertaking a massive survey to image a large area of the sky at an unprecedented depth with Hyper Suprime-Cam as part of the Subaru Strategic Program. A group of astronomers and young students were analyzing some of that Hyper Suprime-Cam data at the school when they found a unique lens system. It was a classic case of a serendipitous discovery.

    “When I was looking at HSC images with the students, we came across a ring-like galaxy and we immediately recognized it as a strong-lensing signature,” said Masayuki Tanaka, the lead author of a science paper on the system’s discovery. “The discovery would not have been possible without the large survey data to find such a rare object, as well as the deep, high quality images to detect light from distant objects.”

    Arsha Dezuka, a student who was working on the data, was astonished at the find. “It was my first time to look at the astronomical images taken with Hyper Suprime-Cam and I had no idea what the ring-like galaxy is,” she said. “It was a great surprise for me to learn that it is such a rare, unique system!”

    What They Saw

    A close inspection of the images revealed two distinct arcs/rings of light with different colors. This strongly suggested that two distinct background galaxies were being lensed by the foreground galaxy. The lensing galaxy has a spectroscopic redshift of z = 0.79 (which means it’s 7.0 billion light-years away, Note 1) based on data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Follow-up spectroscopic observations of the lensed objects using the infrared-sensitive FIRE spectrometer on the Magellan Telescope confirmed that there are actually two galaxies behind the lens. One lies at z = 1.30 and the other is at z = 1.99 (9.0 and 10.5 billion light-years away, respectively).

    “The spectroscopic data reveal some very interesting things about the background sources,” said Kenneth Wong from NAOJ, the second author of the scientific paper describing the system. “Not only do they confirm that there are two sources at different distances from us, but the more distant source seems to consist of two distinct clumps, which could indicate an interacting pair of galaxies. Also, one of the multiple images of that source is itself being split into two images, which could be due to a satellite galaxy that is too faint for us to see.”

    The distinct features for the system (several bright knots, an arc, a complete Einstein ring) arise from the nice alignment of the central lens galaxy and both sources, creating an eye-like structure (Fig.3). The astronomers dubbed it Eye of Horus, for the sacred eye of an ancient Egyptian god, since the system has an uncanny resemblance to it.

    Figure 3: A schematic diagram showing the location of galaxies creating the gravitational lens effect of Eye of Horus. A galaxy 7 billion light years from the Earth bends the light from the two galaxies behind it at a distance of 9 billion light years and 10.5 billion light years, respectively. (Credit: NAOJ)

    The survey with Hyper Suprime-Cam is only 30% complete and it will collect data for several more years. Astronomers expect to find roughly 10 more such systems in the survey, which will provide important insights into the fundamental physics of galaxies as well as how the universe expanded over the last several billion years.

    This research was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers JP15K17617, JP26800093, and JP15H05892. The research paper appeared on-line in the Astrophysical Journal Letters on July 25, 2016.

    1. Conversion of the distance from the redshift uses the following cosmological parameters – H0=67.3km/s/Mpc, Ωm=0.315, Λ=0.685, based on Planck 2013 Results.

    Research Team

    Masayuki Tanaka: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Japan
    Kenneth Wong: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Japan
    Anupreeta More: Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU, WPI), University of Tokyo, Japan
    Arsha Dezuka: Department of Astronomy, University of Kyoto, Japan
    Eiichi Egami: Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, USA
    Masamune Oguri: Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU, WPI), University of Tokyo, Japan; Department of Physics, University of Tokyo, Japan; Research Center for the Early Universe, University of Tokyo, Japan
    Sherry H. Suyu: Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Germany; Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
    Alessandro Sonnenfeld: Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU, WPI), University of Tokyo, Japan
    Ryou Higuchi: Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, The University of Tokyo, Japan
    Yutaka Komiyama: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Japan
    Satoshi Miyazaki: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Japan; SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies), Japan
    Masafusa Onoue: SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies), Japan; National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Japan
    Shuri Oyamada: Japan Women’s University, Japan
    Yousuke Utsumi: Hiroshima Astrophysical Science Center, Hiroshima University, Japan

    See the full article here .
    See the IPMU article here .

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    The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) is an astronomical research organisation comprising several facilities in Japan, as well as an observatory in Hawaii. It was established in 1988 as an amalgamation of three existing research organizations – the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory of the University of Tokyo, International Latitude Observatory of Mizusawa, and a part of Research Institute of Atmospherics of Nagoya University.

    In the 2004 reform of national research organizations, NAOJ became a division of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences.

    NAOJ Subaru Telescope

    NAOJ Subaru Telescope interior

    Solar Flare Telescope

    Nobeyama Radio Telescope - Copy
    Nobeyama Radio Observatory

    Nobeyama Solar Radio Telescope Array
    Nobeyama Radio Observatory: Solar

    Misuzawa Station Japan
    Mizusawa VERA Observatory

    NAOJ Okayama Astrophysical Observatory Telescope
    Okayama Astrophysical Observatory

    The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) is an astronomical research organisation comprising several facilities in Japan, as well as an observatory in Hawaii. It was established in 1988 as an amalgamation of three existing research organizations – the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory of the University of Tokyo, International Latitude Observatory of Mizusawa, and a part of Research Institute of Atmospherics of Nagoya University.

    In the 2004 reform of national research organizations, NAOJ became a division of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences.

  • richardmitnick 11:02 am on July 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AutoLens, , Gravitational Lensing,   

    From U Nottingham: “Fully automated analysis software takes on Euclid’s 100,000 strong gravitational lens challenge” 


    University of Nottingham

    01 Jul 2016
    Lindsay Brooke – Media Relations Manager
    +44 (0)115 951 5751
    University Park


    The European Space Agency’s Euclid satellite, due for launch in 2020, will set astronomers a huge challenge: to analyse one hundred thousand strong gravitational lenses.

    ESA/Euclid spacecraft
    ESA/Euclid spacecraft

    In preparation for Euclid’s challenge, researchers from The University of Nottingham have developed ‘AutoLens’, the first fully-automated analysis software for strong gravitational lenses.

    Radio galaxies gravitationally lensed by a very large foreground galaxy cluster Hubble
    Radio galaxies gravitationally lensed by a very large foreground galaxy cluster Hubble

    James Nightingale, a PhD student in the School of Physics and Astronomy, will present the first results from ‘AutoLens’ on Friday, 1st July at the National Astronomy Meeting 2016, taking place in Nottingham on the University’s Jubilee Campus. The event is organised by the Royal Astronomical Society.

    The gravitational deflection of light from distant astronomical sources by massive galaxies (strong lenses) along the light path can create multiple images of the source that are not just visually stunning, but are also valuable tools for probing our Universe.

    James said: “AutoLens has demonstrated its capabilities with this stunning image of a strong gravitational lens system captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.


    The software’s reconstruction of the lensed source reveals in detail a distant pair of star-forming galaxies that are possibly in the early stages of merging. Within the lensed image of the source are small-scale distortions, which encode an imprint of how the lens galaxy’s mass is distributed. AutoLens has a novel new approach to exploit this imprinted information and can accurately measure the distribution of dark matter in the lensing galaxy.”

    Historically, the analysis of strongly lensed images has been a very time consuming process, requiring a large amount of manual input to study just one system. To date, only around two hundred strong lens systems have been analysed. AutoLens can be run on ‘massively parallel’ computing architecture that uses multiple processors and requires no user input, so will be able to manage the huge amount of data delivered by the Euclid mission.

    James said: “Some of astronomy’s most important results in the past five years have come from studying a handful of strong lenses. This small sample has allowed us to start to unravel the dark matter content of galaxies and the complex physics that drives their formation and evolution. It will be breathtaking to embark on a study of up to one hundred thousand such systems. We can only speculate as to what it will reveal about the nature of dark matter and its role in galaxy evolution.”

    Hubble Space Telescope imaging of the strong gravitational lens ER-0047-2808. Pictured in the center of the image is the strong lens galaxy, whose mass is responsible for the deflection of the background source’s light. The multiply-imaged source galaxy can be seen three times, as an extended arc to the south, a smaller arc to the north-east and two compact clumps of the light to the west.

    AutoLens Source Reconstruction of the strong gravitational lens ER-0047-2808. The source is reconstructed using an adaptive pixel grid, which rebuilds the source’s light using free-form pixels of any shape, size or tessellation. The reconstruction reveals two distinct galaxies under-going a major merger in the distant Universe.

    Image credits: Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained from the data archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute. STScI is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. under NASA contract NAS 5-26555.

    See the full article here .

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    “The University of Nottingham shares many of the characteristics of the world’s great universities. However, we are distinct not only in our key strengths but in how our many strengths combine: we are financially secure, campus based and comprehensive; we are research-led and recruit top students and staff from around the world; we are committed to internationalising all our core activities so our students can have a valuable and enjoyable experience that prepares them well for the rest of their intellectual, professional and personal lives.”

  • richardmitnick 2:53 pm on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Gravitational Lensing   

    From Ethan Siegel: “The strongest gravitational show in the Universe” 

    From Ethan Siegel

    Six examples of the strong gravitational lenses the Hubble Space Telescope discovered and imaged. Image credit: NASA, ESA, C. Faure (Zentrum für Astronomie, University of Heidelberg) and J.P. Kneib (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille).

    When you get enough mass together, Einstein’s theory of gravity causes space to act like a lens. Here are the results.

    “The first amazing fact about gravitation is that the ratio of inertial mass to gravitational mass is constant wherever we have checked it. The second amazing thing about gravitation is how weak it is.” -Richard Feynman

    In 1919, a solar eclipse proved one of Einstein’s greatest predictions: that mass curves space, and causes starlight to bend.

    Positive development of the photographic plate from the solar eclipse of 1919. You can see the stars marked by vertical lines. Image credit: F. W. Dyson, A. S. Eddington, and C. Davidson, 1919.

    With even more massive objects than stars — like galaxies, quasars or galaxy clusters — gravity can do more than just bend light slightly: it can act like a lens.

    This image illustrates a gravitational lensing effect. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and Johan Richard (Caltech, USA); Acknowledgements: Davide de Martin & James Long (ESA/Hubble).

    Just as optical lenses can focus or distort light, gravitational lenses curve space so significantly they magnify and stretch distant, background objects.

    The lensing distortions from galaxy cluster Abell 2390. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and Johan Richard (Caltech, USA); Acknowledgements: Davide de Martin & James Long (ESA/Hubble).

    Normally, a good alignment will distort a background galaxy into two arcs: a radial one pointing away from the foreground mass and a tangential one arcing around the mass.

    Galaxy cluster Abell 2218, with many arcs characteristic of gravitational lensing. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and Johan Richard (Caltech, USA); Acknowledgements: Davide de Martin & James Long (ESA/Hubble).

    Occasionally, an even better alignment will create multiple images of the same object.

    The galaxy cluster Abell 68, and its many lensed and distorted background galaxies. Image credit: NASA & ESA. Acknowledgement: N. Rose.

    The curvature of space forces some light paths to take longer to arrive than others, meaning we’re seeing the same background object at different times.

    A quadruply-imaged supernova, thanks to gravitational lensing. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Rodney (JHU) and the FrontierSN team; T. Treu (UCLA), P. Kelly (UC Berkeley), and the GLASS team; J. Lotz (STScI) and the Frontier Fields team; M. Postman (STScI) and the CLASH team; and Z. Levay (STScI).

    Most spectacularly, we’ve gotten to see a distant supernova “replay” itself due to this lensing effect.

    A horseshoe-shaped Einstein ring, just short of the perfect alignment needed for a 360-degree ring. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA.

    In the most perfect alignment of all, a complete, 360º ring will appear due to gravitational lensing: an Einstein Ring.

    The double gravitational lens system, SDSSJ0946+1006, which shows a rare near-doubly-perfect alignment. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Gavazzi and T. Treu (University of California, Santa Barbara).

    Although the science predicted these lenses for decades, the first one wasn’t observed until 1979′s Twin Quasar.

    The Twin Quasar QSO 0957+561, as gravitationally lensed by the enormous elliptical galaxy, YGKOW G1, four billion light years away. This was the first gravitational lens ever discovered, in 1979. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA.

    See the full article here .

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    “Starts With A Bang! is a blog/video blog about cosmology, physics, astronomy, and anything else I find interesting enough to write about. I am a firm believer that the highest good in life is learning, and the greatest evil is willful ignorance. The goal of everything on this site is to help inform you about our world, how we came to be here, and to understand how it all works. As I write these pages for you, I hope to not only explain to you what we know, think, and believe, but how we know it, and why we draw the conclusions we do. It is my hope that you find this interesting, informative, and accessible,” says Ethan

  • richardmitnick 7:19 am on May 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gravitational Lensing, Keck DEIMOS,   

    From Keck: “Faintest Early-Universe Galaxy Ever, Detected and Confirmed” 

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory.
    Keck, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland

    Keck Observatory

    May 18, 2016
    Steve Jefferson


    Color image of the cluster taken with Hubble Space Telescope (images in three different filters were combined to make an RGB image). In the inset we show three spectra of the multiply imaged systems. They have peaks at the same wavelength, hence showing that they belong to the same source.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    An international team of scientists has detected and confirmed the faintest early-Universe galaxy ever using the W. M. Keck Observatory on the summit on Maunakea, Hawaii. In addition to using the world’s most powerful telescope, the team relied on gravitational lensing to see the incredibly faint object born just after the Big Bang. The results are being published* in The Astrophysical Journal Letters today.

    The team detected the galaxy as it was 13 billion years ago, or when the Universe was a toddler on a cosmic time scale.

    The detection was made using the DEIMOS instrument fitted on the ten-meter Keck II telescope, and was made possible through a phenomenon predicted by Einstein in which an object is magnified by the gravity of another object that is between it and the viewer [gravitational lensing]. In this case, the detected galaxy was behind the galaxy cluster MACS2129.4-0741, which is massive enough to create three different images of the object.


    radio galaxies gravitationally lensed by a very large foreground galaxy cluster Hubble
    Radio galaxies gravitationally lensed by a very large foreground galaxy cluster Hubble

    “Keck Observatory’s telescopes are simply the best in the world for this work,” said Bradac. “Their power, paired with the gravitational force of a massive cluster of galaxies, allows us to truly see where no human has seen before.”

    “Because you see three of them and the characteristics are exactly the same, that means it was lensed,” said Marc Kassis, staff astronomer at Keck Observatory who assists the discovery team at night. “The other thing that is particularly interesting is that it is small. The only way they would have seen it is through lensing. This allowed them to identify it as an ordinary galaxy near the edge of the visible Universe.”

    “If the light from this galaxy was not magnified by factors of 11, five and two, we would not have been able to see it,” said Kuang-Han Huang, a team member from UC Davis and the lead author of the paper. “It lies near the end of the reionization epoch, during which most of the hydrogen gas between galaxies transitioned from being mostly neutral to being mostly ionized (and lit up the stars for the first time).

    Reionization era and first stars, Caltech
    Reionization era and first stars, Caltech

    That shows how gravitational lensing is important for understanding the faint galaxy population that dominates the reionization photon production.”

    The galaxy’s magnified images were originally seen separately in both Keck Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope data. The team collected and combined all the Keck Observatory/DEIMOS spectra from all three images, confirming they were the same and that this is a triply-lensed system.

    “We now have good constraints on when the reionization process ends – at redshift around 6 or 12.5 billion years ago – but we don’t yet know a lot of details about how it happened,” Huang said. “The galaxy detected in our work is likely a member of the faint galaxy population that drives the reionization process.”

    “This galaxy is exciting because the team infers a very low stellar mass, or only one percent of one percent of the Milky Way galaxy,” Kassis said. “It’s a very, very small galaxy and at such a great distance, it’s a clue in answering one of the fundamental questions astronomy is trying to understand: What is causing the hydrogen gas at the very beginning of the Universe to go from neutral to ionized about 13 billion years ago. That’s when stars turned on and matter became more complex.”

    The core of the team consisted of Bradac, Huang, Brian Lemaux, and Austin Hoag of UC Davis who are most directly involved with spectroscopic observation and data reduction of galaxies at redshift above seven. Keck Observatory astronomers Luca Rizzi and Carlos Alvarez were instrumental in helping the team collect the DEIMOS data. Tommaso Treu from University of California, Los Angeles and Kasper Schmidt of Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam were also part of the team. They lead the effort that obtains and analyzes spectroscopic data from the WFC3/IR grism on Hubble.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes near the summit of Maunakea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrographs and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.

    DEIMOS (the DEep Imaging and Multi-Object Spectrograph) boasts the largest field of view (16.7 arcmin by 5 arcmin) of any of the Keck instruments, and the largest number of pixels (64 Mpix). It is used primarily in its multi-object mode, obtaining simultaneous spectra of up to 130 galaxies or stars. Astronomers study fields of distant galaxies with DEIMOS, efficiently probing the most distant corners of the universe with high sensitivity.

    *Science paper:

    See the full article here .

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    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.
    Keck UCal

    Keck NASA

    Keck Caltech

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