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Baby stars and bubbles of gas

Region N11 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Hubble snapped this broad vista of young stars and gas clouds in our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. This region, known as N11, and is one of the most active star formation regions in the nearby Universe.

  • Region of starbirth in a neighbouring galaxy
  • Young stars blowing bubbles of gas
  • One starbirth region is over 1,000 light-years wide

A spectacular new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image — one of the largest ever released of a star-forming region — highlights N11, part of a complex network of gas clouds and star clusters within our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud.

This region of energetic star formation is one of the most active in the nearby Universe.

The Large Magellanic Cloud contains many bright bubbles of glowing gas. One of the largest and most spectacular has the name LHA 120-N 11, from its listing in a catalogue compiled by the American astronomer and astronaut Karl Henize in 1956, and is informally known as N11.

Close up, the billowing pink clouds of glowing gas make N11 resemble a puffy swirl of fairground candy floss. From further away, its distinctive overall shape led some observers to nickname it the Bean Nebula.

The dramatic and colourful features visible in the nebula are the telltale signs of star formation.

Baby stars blow bubbles

N11 is a well-studied region that extends over 1,000 light-years. It is the second largest star-forming region within the Large Magellanic Cloud and has produced some of the most massive stars known.

It is the process of star formation that gives N11 its distinctive look. Three successive generations of stars, each of which formed further away from the centre of the nebula than the last, have created shells of gas and dust.

These shells were blown away from the newborn stars in the turmoil of their energetic birth and early life, creating the ring shapes so prominent in this image.

See the full-size image here (0.7MB, will open in a new window).

In the upper left corner of the picture is the red bloom of nebula LHA 120-N 11A. Its rose-like petals of gas and dust are illuminated from within, thanks to the radiation from the group of massive, hot stars at its centre. N11A is relatively compact and dense and is the site of the most recent burst of star development in the region.

Large Magellanic Cloud

The Large Magellanic Cloud is a nearby, small, irregularly-shaped galaxy that is gravitationally tied to our Milky Way galaxy.

Other star clusters abound in N11, including NGC 1761 at the bottom of the image, which is a group of massive hot young stars busily pouring intense ultraviolet radiation out into space.

The Large Magellanic Cloud

Although it is much smaller than our own galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud is a very vigorous region of star formation. Studying these stellar nurseries helps astronomers understand a lot more about how stars are born and their ultimate development and lifespan.

Both the Large Magellanic Cloud and its small companion, the Small Magellanic Cloud, are easily seen with the unaided eye and have always been familiar to people living in the Southern Hemisphere.

The credit for bringing these galaxies to the attention of Europeans is usually given to Portuguese explorer Fernando de Magellan and his crew, who viewed it on their 1519 sea voyage.

However, the Persian astronomer Abd Al-Rahman Al Sufi and the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci recorded the Large Magellanic Cloud in 964 and 1503 respectively.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / ESA / Jesús Maíz Apellániz (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain).

Hubble spots stars on the move

The star-forming region NGC 3603

The star-forming region NGC 3603 contains one of the most impressive young star clusters in the Milky Way. Surrounded by gas and dust, the cluster formed in a huge rush around a million years ago. The hot blue stars at the core are carving out the huge cavity in the gas seen to the right of the cluster. Hubble Space Telescope image.

  • Star cluster 20,000 light-years away
  • Using Hubble, scientists measure the stars’ motions
  • Surprisingly, the stars are still moving quickly

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have taken snapshots of a star cluster taken 10 years apart to reveal the motions of the stars contained within.

Their target was the massive young star cluster in the nebula known as NGC 3603.

With a mass of more than 10,000 stars packed into a volume with a diameter of a mere three light-years, it is one of the most compact star clusters in the Milky Way and an ideal place to test theories of their formation.

By comparison, in our own immediate stellar neighbourhood, the same volume of space contains only a single star…our Sun.

A team of astronomers from the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg and the University of Cologne, led by Wolfgang Brandner (MPIA), wanted to track the movement of the cluster’s many stars to reveal whether the stars are in the process of drifting apart, or about to settle down.

Hubble Telescope best for the job

The cluster, formally known as the NGC 3603 Young Cluster, is about 20,000 light-years from the Sun, a distance that makes it extraordinarily difficult to measure star motions.

In order to see how the stars are moving, it was necessary to compare images that were made years or even decades apart. The telescope and camera used had to give very sharp images and be extremely stable over long periods.

The core of the star cluster in NGC 3603

The core of the star cluster in NGC 3603 is shown in great detail in this image from the Hubble Space Telescope. This is the second of two images taken 10 years apart that were used to detect the motions of individual stars within the cluster for the first time.

Brandner and his colleagues realised that the Hubble Space Telescope was the best for the job.

First, they found good data in the archives for the NGC 3603 cluster from a July 1997 observing run with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). Then they made their own follow-up observations in September 2007, using the same camera and the same set of filters as in the original observations.

It then took the team two years of very careful analysis to extract reliable estimates for the motions of stars in the images.

Boyke Rochau (MPIA), who performed the analysis as part of his PhD work, explains: “Our measurements have a precision of 27 millionths of an arcsecond per year. This tiny angle corresponds to the apparent thickness of a human hair seen from a distance of 800 km.”

In this laborious way, they were able to measure the precise speeds of more than 800 stars. About 50 were identified as foreground stars that are unrelated to the cluster, but more than 700 cluster stars of different masses and surface temperatures remained.

Signs of unrest

The results were surprising—this star cluster has not yet settled down. Instead, the stars’ velocities still reflect conditions from the time the cluster was formed, approximately one million years ago.

Stars are born when a gigantic cloud of gas and dust collapses. In cases such as the star-forming region NGC 3603, where the cloud is unusually massive and compact, the process is particularly quick and intense. Most of the cloud’s matter ends up concentrated inside hot young stars and the cluster keeps much of its initial gravitational attraction.

In the long term such massive compact star clusters may lead to the development of the huge balls of stars known as globular star clusters, whose tightly packed stars remain held together by gravity for billions of years.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / ESA / Wolfgang Brandner (MPIA), Boyke Rochau (MPIA) and Andrea Stolte (University of Cologne) / Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration.

Wacky planets force a rethink

Diagram showing the orbits of three planets around the star Upsilon Andromedae A

Three Jupiter-type planets orbit the star Upsilon Andromedae A. Astronomers have found that the orbits of two of the planets are inclined by 30 degrees with respect to each other, something that hasn't been detected in any other planetary system.

  • Planets orbiting a distant star
  • Their orbits are wildly tilted to each other
  • Forcing a rethink of planetary evolution

The discovery of a planetary system “out of whack,” where the orbits of two planets are at a steep angle to each other, has been reported today by a team of astronomers led by Barbara McArthur of The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory.

The surprising finding will affect concepts of how multi-planet systems evolve, and shows that some violent events can happen to disrupt planets’ orbits after a planetary system forms, say the researchers.

“The findings mean that future studies of exoplanetary systems will be more complicated. Astronomers can no longer assume all planets orbit their parent star in a single plane,” McArthur says. (An exoplanet is one that orbits a star other than the Sun.)

McArthur and her team used data from Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the giant Hobby-Eberly Telescope, and other ground-based telescopes combined with extensive computer modelling to unearth a landslide of information about the planetary system surrounding the nearby star Upsilon Andromedae (“Ups And”).

McArthur reported these findings in a press conference at the 216th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Miami, along with her collaborator Fritz Benedict, also of McDonald Observatory, and team member Rory Barnes of the University of Washington. The work also will be published in the June 1 edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

A new angle on the theory

For just over a decade, astronomers have known that three Jupiter-type planets orbit the yellow-white dwarf star Upsilon Andromedae. Similar to our Sun, Upsilon Andromedae lies about 44 light-years away. It’s a bit younger, a bit more massive, and a bit brighter than the Sun.

Diagram showing a comparison between our Solar System and the Upsilon Andromedae A system.

A comparison of planetary orbits in our Solar System and the Upsilon Andromedae A system.

Much more startling, though, is the finding that not all planets orbit this star in the same plane. The orbits of planets “c” and “d” are inclined by 30 degrees with respect to each other.

This research marks the first time that the “mutual inclination” of two planets orbiting another star has been measured. And, the team has uncovered hints that a fourth planet, “e”, orbits the star much farther out.

“Most probably Upsilon Andromedae had the same formation process as our own Solar System, although there could have been differences in the late formation that seeded this divergent evolution,” McArthur said.

Until now the conventional wisdom has been that a big cloud of gas collapses down to form a star. Left over material forms a flattened cloud—known as a “disc”—surrounding the young star, and the formation of planets within it is a natural by-product. In our Solar System, there’s a telltale sign of that process because all of the eight major planets orbit in nearly the same plane.

“But now we have measured a significant angle between these planets that indicates this isn’t always the case,” says McArthur.

On the precipice of stability

So how did the two planets end up in such dissimilar orbits?

Possibilities include gravitational distortions during close encounters between planets in the system. Or it could have been a similar gravitational disruption caused by the parent star’s binary companion star, Upsilon Andromedae B.

The astronomers don’t know which scenario is correct, but they’ve found that the current orbital configuration is “right on the precipice of stability.”

“The planets pull on each other so strongly that they are almost able to throw each other out of the system,” says Barnes.

The team has also uncovered hints that a fourth, long-period planet may orbit beyond the three now known. There are only hints about that planet because it’s so far out, the signal it creates does not yet reveal the curvature of an orbit. Another missing piece of the puzzle is the inclination of the innermost planet b, which would require precision measurements 1,000 times greater than Hubble’s, a goal NASA’s planned Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) could attain.

The team’s Hubble data also confirmed Upsilon Andromedae’s status as a binary star. The companion star is a red dwarf less massive and much dimmer than the Sun.

We don’t have any idea what its orbit is,” Benedict said. “It could be very eccentric. Maybe it comes in very close every once in a while. It may take 10,000 years.”

Such a close pass by the primary star could gravitationally affect the orbits of its planets.

Adapted from information issued by McDonald Observatory, The University of Texas at Austin / STScI / NASA / ESA / A. Feild (STScI) / B. McArthur (The University of Texas at Austin, McDonald Observatory).

Hubble finds a star eating a planet

An artist's impression of planet WASP-12

An artist's impression of planet WASP-12 circling close to its star—so close, in fact, that some of the planet's atmosphere is being pulled onto the star by the star's gravity.

  • Planet 600 light-years away
  • Orbits very close to its star
  • Star’s gravity is stripping gas from its atmosphere

The hottest known planet in the Milky Way galaxy may also be its shortest-lived world. The doomed planet is being eaten by its parent star, according to observations made by a new instrument on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS).

The planet may only have another 10 million years left before it is completely devoured.

Called WASP-12b, the planet is so close to its Sun-like star that it is superheated to nearly 1,500 degrees Celsius and stretched into a football shape by enormous tidal forces. The atmosphere has ballooned to nearly three times Jupiter’s radius and is spilling material onto the star. The planet is 40 percent more massive than Jupiter.

This effect of matter exchange between two stellar objects is commonly seen in close binary star systems, but this is the first time it has been seen so clearly for a planet.

“We see a huge cloud of material around the planet which is escaping and will be captured by the star. We have identified chemical elements never before seen on planets outside our own Solar System,” says team leader Carole Haswell of The Open University in Great Britain.

WASP camera system

The camera system used by the Wide Area Search for Planets.

Hubble confirms the prediction

A theoretical paper published in the science journal Nature last February by Shu-lin Li of the Department of Astronomy at the Peking University, Beijing, first predicted that the planet’s surface would be distorted by the star’s gravity, and that gravitational tidal forces make the interior so hot that it greatly expands the planet’s outer atmosphere. Now Hubble has confirmed this prediction.

WASP-12 is a yellow dwarf star located approximately 600 light-years away. It was discovered by the United Kingdom’s Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP) in 2008. The WASP automated survey looks for the periodic dimming of stars from planets passing in front of them, an effect called transiting. The hot planet is so close to the star it completes an orbit in 1.1 days.

The unprecedented ultraviolet (UV) sensitivity of COS enabled measurements of the dimming of the parent star’s light as the planet passed in front of the star. These UV spectral observations showed that absorption lines from aluminium, tin, manganese and other elements, became more pronounced as the planet transited the star, meaning that these elements exist in the planet’s atmosphere as well as the star’s.

The fact the COS could detect these features on a planet offers strong evidence that the planet’s atmosphere is greatly extended because it is so hot.

The UV spectroscopy was also used to calculate a “light curve” to precisely show just how much of the star’s light is blocked out during transit. The depth of the light curve allowed the COS team to accurately calculate the planet’s radius.

They found that the planet’s radius exceeds its Roche lobe, the gravitational boundary beyond which material would be lost forever from the planet’s atmosphere.

Adapted from information issued by STScI / NASA / ESA / G. Bacon (STScI) / C. Haswell (The Open University, UK).

Hubble wants you for the Zoo

The famous Sombrero Galaxy

The public can join Galaxy Zoo to help scientists categorise thousands of distant galaxies. This one is the famous Sombrero Galaxy.

As the Hubble Space Telescope achieves the major milestone of two decades on orbit, NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute, or STScI, in Baltimore are celebrating Hubble’s journey of exploration with several online educational activities.

There are also opportunities for people to explore galaxies as armchair scientists and send personal greetings to Hubble for posterity.

NASA’s best-recognised, longest-lived and most prolific space observatory was launched April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery during the STS-31 mission. Hubble discoveries revolutionised nearly all areas of current astronomical research from planetary science to cosmology.

Over the years, Hubble has suffered broken equipment, a bleary-eyed primary mirror, and the cancellation of a planned shuttle servicing mission. But the ingenuity and dedication of Hubble scientists, engineers and NASA astronauts allowed the observatory to rebound and thrive. The telescope’s crisp vision continues to challenge scientists and the public with new discoveries and evocative images.

“Hubble is undoubtedly one of the most recognised and successful scientific projects in history,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Last year’s space shuttle servicing mission left the observatory operating at peak capacity, giving it a new beginning for scientific achievements that impact our society.”

A Hubble image of part of the Eagle Nebula

A Hubble image of part of the Eagle Nebula

Get involved with Hubble

Hubble fans worldwide are being invited to take an interactive journey with Hubble by visiting http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/Hubble20/. They can also visit http://www.hubblesite.org to share the ways the telescope has affected them. Follow the “Messages to Hubble” link to send an e-mail, post a Facebook message, or send a cell phone text message. Fan messages will be stored in the Hubble data archive along with the telescope’s science data.

For those who use Twitter, you can follow @HubbleTelescope or post tweets using the Twitter hashtag #hst20.

The public also will have an opportunity to become at-home scientists by helping astronomers sort out the thousands of galaxies seen in a Hubble deep field observation.

STScI is partnering with the Galaxy Zoo consortium of scientists to launch an Internet-based astronomy project where amateur astronomers can peruse and sort galaxies from Hubble’s deepest view of the universe into their classic shapes: spiral, elliptical, and irregular.

Dividing the galaxies into categories will allow astronomers to study how they relate to each other and provide clues that might help scientists understand how they formed.

To visit the Galaxy Zoo page, go to http://www.hubble.galaxyzoo.org

A screenshot from Galaxy Zoo

A screenshot from Galaxy Zoo

For educators and students, STScI is creating an educational website called “Celebrating Hubble’s 20th Anniversary.” It offers links to facts and trivia about Hubble, a news story that chronicles the observatory’s life and discoveries, and the IMAX “Hubble 3D” educator’s guide.

An anniversary poster containing Hubble’s “hall-of-fame” images, including the Eagle Nebula and Saturn, also is being offered with downloadable classroom activity information. Visit the website at http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/hubble_20

To date, Hubble has observed more than 30,000 celestial targets and amassed more than a half-million pictures in its archive. The last astronaut servicing mission to Hubble in May 2009 made the telescope 100 times more powerful than when it was launched.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / STScI.

Hubble’s 20th birthday image

Hubble Space Telescope image of part of the Carina Nebula

This turbulent cosmic pinnacle lies within a tempestuous stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina. The image celebrates the 20th anniversary of Hubble's launch and deployment into an orbit around the Earth.

The best recognised, longest-lived and most prolific space observatory zooms past a milestone of 20 years of operation.

On April 24, 1990, the space shuttle and crew of STS-31 were launched to deploy the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope into a low-Earth orbit. What followed was one of the most remarkable sagas of the space age.

Hubble’s unprecedented capabilities have made it one of the most powerful science instruments ever conceived by humans, and certainly the one most embraced by the public. Hubble’s discoveries have revolutionised nearly all areas of current astronomical research, from planetary science to cosmology. And, its pictures are unmistakably out of this world.

At times Hubble’s starry odyssey has played out like a space soap opera: with broken equipment, a bleary-eyed primary mirror and even a Space Shuttle rescue/repair mission cancellation.

But the ingenuity and dedication of Hubble scientists, engineers, and NASA and ESA astronauts have allowed the observatory to rebound time and time again. Its crisp vision continues to challenge scientists with exciting new surprises and to enthral the public with ever more evocative colour images.

NASA, ESA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) are celebrating Hubble’s journey of exploration with a stunning new picture.

The brand new Hubble anniversary image highlights a small portion of one of the largest observable regions of starbirth in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. (See the large version here.) Towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula.

The scene is reminiscent of Hubble’s classic Pillars of Creation photo from 1995, but even more striking in appearance.

The image captures the top of a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall, which is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being pushed apart from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks like arrows sailing through the air.

The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit

The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit

Hubble’s public involvement

Another exciting component of the anniversary will be the launch of the revamped European website for Hubble, spacetelescope.org. ESA will also be sponsoring the Hubble Pop Culture Contest that calls for fans to search for examples of the observatory’s presence in everyday life (http://www.spacetelescope.org/projects/20anniversary/hubblepopculture/).

Hubble fans worldwide are being invited to share the ways in which the telescope has affected them. They can send an e-mail, post a Facebook message (to http://www.facebook.com/hubblespacetelescope) or use the Twitter hashtag #hst20. Or, they can visit the “Messages to Hubble” page on http://hubblesite.org, type in their entry and read selections from other messages that have been received.

Fan messages will be stored in the Hubble data archive along with the telescope’s many terabytes of science data. Future researchers will be able to read these messages and understand how Hubble had such an impact on the world.

To date, Hubble has looked at over 30,000 celestial targets and amassed over half a million pictures in its archive.

The last heroic astronaut-servicing mission to Hubble in May 2009 made the telescope 100 times more powerful than when it was launched. In addition to its irreplaceable scientific importance, Hubble brings cosmic wonders into millions of homes and schools every day.

Adapted from information issued by ESA. Image credit: NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI).

Hubble’s 20th birthday celebrated

The Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope celebrates 20 years in space on April 24.

NASA set out on a monumental journey with the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in April 24, 1990. Since then, it has captured the minds and imaginations of people around the world.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this scientific icon, NASA has collaborated with leading illustrated book publisher Abrams to release a dynamic and unique collection of Hubble images and commentary.

Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time takes an in-depth look at this unique, groundbreaking telescope. It serves as an authoritative account of the observatory, which has revolutionised astronomy and photography.

Cover of Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time

New book, Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time, celebrates Hubble's 20th birthday.

The book highlights Hubble’s spectacular visual legacy to humanity in stunning images and includes what many consider Hubble’s 20 most important scientific findings to date.

The classic images, all selected by NASA astronomers, show stars being born and dying; galaxies colliding and reforming; and the young universe in the throes of creation.

“This book represents a sampling of 20 years of Hubble discoveries that have forever changed the view of the universe and our place within it,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington and the book’s author.

“The new and improved Hubble will continue to have a positive impact on the world for decades with many of its greatest discoveries yet to come.”

Complementing the stunning imagery are commentaries by notable scientists and testimonies by the veteran astronauts who manned NASA’s missions to repair and maintain the telescope.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who piloted the space shuttle that launched the telescope, contributed the foreword. The result is a firsthand, complete story of one of history’s most important astronomical tools.

For more information about Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time, visit the SpaceInfo Shop.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / Abrams.

Hubble confirms the universe is expanding faster

A map showing the expected location of dark matter withing a region of deep space

A map showing the expected location of dark matter withing a region of deep space

A new study led by European scientists presents the most comprehensive analysis of data from the most ambitious survey ever undertaken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

The researchers have, for the first time ever, used Hubble data to probe the effects of the natural gravitational “weak lenses” in space and characterise the expansion of the Universe.

A group of astronomers, led by Tim Schrabback of the Leiden Observatory, conducted an intensive study of over 446,000 galaxies within the COSMOS field, the result of the largest survey ever conducted with Hubble. In making the COSMOS survey, Hubble photographed 575 slightly overlapping views of the same part of the Universe using the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) onboard Hubble. It took nearly 1,000 hours of observations.

In addition to the Hubble data, researchers used redshift data from ground-based telescopes to assign distances to 194,000 of the galaxies surveyed (out to a redshift of 5).

“The sheer number of galaxies included in this type of analysis is unprecedented, but more important is the wealth of information we could obtain about the invisible structures in the Universe from this exceptional dataset,” says Patrick Simon from Edinburgh University.

An illustration showing how Hubble looks back in time to "map" evolving dark matter

Hubble looks back in time to "map" evolving dark matter by splitting the background galaxy population into discrete epochs of time (like cutting through rock strata). By measuring the redshift of the "lensing" galaxies used to map the dark matter distribution, scientists can put them into different time/distance "slices".

In particular, the astronomers could “weigh” the large-scale matter distribution in space over large distances. To do this, they made use of the fact that this information is encoded in the distorted shapes of distant galaxies, a phenomenon referred to as weak gravitational lensing.

Using complex algorithms, the team led by Schrabback has improved the standard method and obtained galaxy shape measurements to an unprecedented precision. The results of the study will be published in an upcoming issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The meticulousness and scale of this study enables an independent confirmation that the expansion of the Universe is accelerated by an additional, mysterious component named dark energy. A handful of other such independent confirmations exist.

Astronomers compared real observations with two predictions – one for a dark matter-dominated universe, the other one dominated by dark energy.

COSMOS Project Astronomers compared real observations with two simulations – one for a dark matter-dominated universe, the other one dominated by dark energy. The dark energy one is the closest match.

Scientists need to know how the formation of clumps of matter evolved in the history of the Universe to determine how the gravitational force, which holds matter together, and dark energy, which pulls it apart by accelerating the expansion of the Universe, have affected them.

“Dark energy affects our measurements for two reasons. First, when it is present, galaxy clusters grow more slowly, and secondly, it changes the way the Universe expands, leading to more distant — and more efficiently lensed — galaxies. Our analysis is sensitive to both effects,” says co-author Benjamin Joachimi from the University of Bonn.

“Our study also provides an additional confirmation for Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which predicts how the lensing signal depends on redshift,” adds co-investigator Martin Kilbinger from the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris and the Excellence Cluster Universe.

The large number of galaxies included in this study, along with information on their redshifts is leading to a clearer map of how, exactly, part of the Universe is laid out; it helps us see its galactic inhabitants and how they are distributed.

“With more accurate information about the distances to the galaxies, we can measure the distribution of the matter between them and us more accurately,” notes co-investigator Jan Hartlap from the University of Bonn.

“Before, most of the studies were done in 2D, like taking a chest X-ray. Our study is more like a 3D reconstruction of the skeleton from a CT scan. On top of that, we are able to watch the skeleton of dark matter mature from the Universe’s youth to the present,” comments William High from Harvard University, another co-author.

Image credits: NASA, ESA, J. Hartlap (University of Bonn), P. Simon (University of Bonn) and T. Schrabback (Leiden Observatory)