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When it comes to making new stars, the party is almost over in the present-day universe. In fact, it's been nearly over for billions of years. Our Milky Way continues to form the equivalent of one Sun every year. But in the past, that rate was up to 100 times greater. So if we really want to understand how stars like our Sun formed in the universe, we need to look billions of years into the past.
Using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope as a sort of time machine, a team of researchers intends to do just that. Led by principal investigator Jane Rigby of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and co-principal investigator Joaquin Vieira of the University of Illinois, Champaign, the team will take advantage of natural, cosmic telescopes called gravitational lenses. These large celestial objects will magnify the light from distant galaxies that are at or near the peak of star formation.
Phenomenon - Lensing - Amount - Matter - Galaxy
The phenomenon of gravitational lensing occurs when a huge amount of matter, such as a massive galaxy or cluster of galaxies, creates a gravitational field that distorts and magnifies the light from objects behind it, but in the same line of sight. The effect allows researchers to study the details of early galaxies too far away to be seen otherwise with even the most powerful space telescopes.
"We're studying four galaxies that appear much, much brighter than they actually are, because they've been highly magnified up to 50 times. We'll use gravitational lenses to study how those galaxies are forming their stars, and how that star formation is distributed across the galaxies," explained Rigby.
Thing - Sources - Magnifying - Glass - Galaxy
"The nice thing about using lensed sources is that it's like a cosmic magnifying glass, where the galaxy is stretched out, so it enhances the resolution of your telescope," said Vieira.
The program is...
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