UH discovery among first images captured by Webb Space Telescope

SMACSJ0723an exceptionally massive concentration of galaxies, was first identified by If a researchers almost 20 years ago. (Photo credit: Nasa, ESA, CSAand STScI)

Nasa and the White House released the very first image taken with NasaThe flagship James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The target is a massive cluster of galaxies that was originally discovered by researchers from the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy (If a). SMACSJ0723an exceptionally massive concentration of galaxies, was first identified by If a researchers almost 20 years ago.

“Gravitational lensing,” predicted by Albert Einstein, causes the images of the galaxies behind these clusters to appear magnified and often oddly distorted, much like a lens distorts our view of the objects behind it. The picture of SMACSJ0723 shown here thus indeed captures the view of an engineering telescope (JWST) looking through a natural telescope (a cluster of giant galaxies) and the result is unprecedented magnification.

“Observational astronomy has a way of leaving us speechless and speechless, but JWST truly ushers in a new era,” said Harald Ebelinghead teacher at If a and Principal Investigator of the Massive Cluster Survey (Mac) that identified the cluster of galaxies. “All of the tiny super faint, dark red dots, and many of the brighter, oddly shaped objects in this amazing image are extremely distant galaxies that no human eye has seen before. This is the very edge of the planet. visible universe, placed within the reach of JWST by the gravitational amplification of SMACSJ0723. We were delighted and honored to learn that one of “our” clusters was chosen to be among the very first objects to be observed with JWST.”

Images of four other targets will be broadcast by Nasa July 12.


Galaxy clusters are the most massive objects in the universe that are held together by gravity and, in addition to galaxies, contain large amounts of dark matter and diffuse gas. Marked as a potentially extremely massive cluster by the If a team, SMACSJ0723 was confirmed shortly after by observations made with the 3.5-meter telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

“While much of the sky can be reached with Maunakea’s world-class facilities, some of our Mac the cluster candidates were simply too far south. Fortunately, astronomy is a collaborative effort,” explained Mac Co-investigator Alastair Edge, Deputy Director of the Center for Extragalactic Astronomy at Durham University (UK). Measures carried out by the edges that placed SMACSJ0723 more than 7 billion light-years from Earth. If a former student Chris Mullis and Durham University alumnus Nathan Courtney were also part of Edge’s research team.

JWSTthe unprecedented image of SMACSJ0723 is part of the observatory’s exclusive round of early science observations and affirms the power of the approach taken by If a researchers to find the largest cluster telescopes to allow such observations.

Mac and the very distant universe

Ebeling and his team specialize in finding the most extreme clusters of galaxies throughout the sky as part of their quest to provide the scientific community with extremely powerful gravitational telescopes. Starting from a list of unidentified x-ray sources all over the sky, the Mac The team split to obtain optical images with ground-based telescopes around the world in search of faint concentrations of galaxies at the location of these X-ray sources.

“The strategy was simple: X-ray emission plus a large number of galaxies equals a massive cluster,” Ebeling explained. “The sheer size of these systems and the fact that cluster studies provide insight into the properties of gas, galaxies, and dark matter all at once have greatly improved our understanding of formation and evolution. of the Universe, from the Big Bang to the present day.

Therefore, Mac the clusters have been sought-after targets for many extensive studies conducted with the Hubble Space Telescope and many other ground-based and space-based astronomical facilities.

Innovative uh-sensors designed on board JWST

Technology developed and tested at If a and on Maunakea are behind JWSTthe ability to look deeper into space than ever before. Sixteen near-infrared sensors called HAWAII-2RG are part of JWSTallowing it to capture near-infrared light from deep space, far exceeding the capability of Nasaof the Hubble Space Telescope.

These sensors are the culmination of years of research and development by If a scientists and engineers. The first prototypes were developed and tested by uh astronomers Donation room, Klaus Hodappand Doug Simonsin the same way If a Instrumentation Engineer Shane Jacobson.

Learn more about gravitational lensing

The most extreme clusters create distortions in spacetime in their vicinity that can have a dramatic observing effect. If the space-time distortion is strong enough, the path of light from very distant objects directly behind the cluster will be bent and curved around the cluster towards an observer on Earth, similar to how an optical lens focuses and amplifies the light of objects placed behind it.

Such gravitational lensing, predicted by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago, not only creates bizarrely distorted images of lensed background objects called gravitational arcs. This effect also greatly magnifies them, allowing astronomers to detect and study extremely faint and distant galaxies that, without the amplification provided by the cluster lens, would be beyond the reach of any man-made telescope, even one as powerful as JWST.

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