Jackpot! Cosmic Magnifying-Glass Effect Captures Universe's Brightest Galaxies

Stsci_2017-24_1024

stsci_2017-24 June 6th, 2017

Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Lowenthal (Smith College)

Galaxies Shine with the Brilliance of up to 100 Trillion Suns

Astronomers were fascinated in the 1980s with the discovery of nearby dust-enshrouded galaxies that glowed thousands of times brighter than our Milky Way galaxy in infrared light. Dubbed ultra-luminous infrared galaxies, they were star-making factories, churning out a prodigious amount of stars every year. What wasn't initially clear was what powered these giant infrared light bulbs. Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope helped astronomers confirm the source of the galaxies' light output. Many of them reside within "nests" of galaxies engaged in multiple pile-ups of three, four or even five galaxies. The dust is produced by the firestorm of star birth, which glows fiercely in infrared light.

Now Hubble is illuminating the bright galaxies' distant dust-enshrouded cousins. Boosted by natural magnifying lenses in space, Hubble has captured unique close-up views of the universe's brightest infrared galaxies. The galaxies are ablaze with runaway star formation, pumping out more than 10,000 new stars a year. This unusually rapid star birth is occurring at the peak of the universe's star-making boom more than 8 billion years ago. The star-birth frenzy creates lots of dust, which enshrouds the galaxies, making them too faint to detect in visible light. But they glow fiercely in infrared light, shining with the brilliance of 10 trillion to 100 trillion suns.

The galaxy images, magnified through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, reveal a tangled web of misshapen objects punctuated by exotic patterns such as rings and arcs. The odd shapes are due largely to the foreground lensing galaxies' powerful gravity distorting the images of the background galaxies. Two possibilities for the star-making frenzy are galaxy collisions or gas spilling into the galaxies.

Provider: Hubble Space Telescope | STScI

Image Source: http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2017-24

Curator: STScI, Baltimore, MD, USA

Image Use Policy: http://hubblesite.org/copyright/

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Image Details

Image Type
Collage
Object Name
J074851.72
Subject - Local Universe
Galaxy > Grouping > Cluster

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Pseudocolor Hubble (WFC3/IR) Infrared (H) 1.6 µm
Spectrum_base
Pseudocolor
Stsci_2017-24_1280
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ID
2017-24
Subject Category
C.5.5.3  
Subject Name
J074851.72
Credits
NASA, ESA, and J. Lowenthal (Smith College)
Release Date
2017-06-06
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2017-24
Type
Collage
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Hubble
Instrument
WFC3/IR
Color Assignment
Pseudocolor
Band
Infrared
Bandpass
H
Central Wavelength
1600
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
Reference Dimension
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
STScI
URL
http://hubblesite.org
Name
Space Telescope Science Institute Office of Public Outreach
Email
outreach@stsci.edu
Telephone
410-338-4444
Address
3700 San Martin Drive
City
Baltimore
State/Province
MD
Postal Code
21218
Country
USA
Rights
http://hubblesite.org/copyright/
Publisher
STScI
Publisher ID
stsci
Resource ID
STSCI-H-p1724a-f-3190x2128.tif
Metadata Date
2018-04-12T11:02:14-04:00
Metadata Version
1.2
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