UMKC astrophysicist part of Hubble team to discover distant 'puzzling arc of light'
In a news release issued on June 26, NASA announced a surprising discovery made by a team of astronomers using the Hubble Telescope. What they found is described as "a puzzling arc of light behind an extremely massive cluster of galaxies residing 10 billion light-years away." The giant arc is the stretched shape of a more distant galaxy whose light is distorted by the monster cluster's powerful gravity, an effect called gravitational lensing.
Mark Brodwin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the UMKC Department of Physics and Astronomy, is co-principal investigator of the team credited with the discovery. He is also the principal author of a paper about the discovery that will appear in the July 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. The article is available online now at http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/753/2/162/.
Using the Spitzer Space Telescope, Brodwin and his colleagues discovered a very massive galaxy cluster -- 500 million million times the mass of our Sun -- and 10 billion light years away. This is by far the most massive cluster discovered when the Universe was so young, only a quarter of its present age.
"Then using the Hubble, we saw that the light from a much more distant galaxy behind this cluster was warped by the cluster's huge gravitational field," Brodwin said. "However, current theory predicts there should be no such arcs at this distance, so we have a real mystery on our hands. This is a very exciting discovery."