Gravitational lens reveals one of the cosmos' brightest known galaxies

"These types of objects harbor the most powerful star forming regions known in the universe," said astronomer Susana Iglesias-Groth.
By Brooks Hays   |   July 14, 2017 at 12:46 PM
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July 14 (UPI) -- Scientists in Spain have discovered one of the brightest galaxies in the universe with the help of a gravitational lens. Located some 10 thousand million light-years from Earth, the newly discovered galaxy is a thousand times brighter than the Milky Way.

The galaxy's light is bent by the gravity of a galactic cluster situated closer to Earth, a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. The effect magnifies the distant galaxy without distorting the spectral qualities of the light, allowing astronomers to study the galaxy in detail.

Gravity lensing causes the newly discovered galaxy to appear 11 times bigger and brighter than it is in reality. Lensing also reveals multiple images of the distant galaxy, organized in a ring around the intermediary source of light-warping gravity.

The galaxy is the brightest known submillimetre galaxy, a group of galaxies named for their extreme luminosity in the far infrared portion of the spectrum.

Researchers at the Technical University of Cartagena and the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands used telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory to survey the submillimetre galaxy.

The latest survey, published this week in Astrophysical Journal Letters, suggests the bright, distant galaxy is a prodigious star-maker, generating 1000 solar masses per year. The Milky Way, by comparison, generates just two solar masses per year.

"This type of objects harbor the most powerful star forming regions known in the universe," Susana Iglesias-Groth, an IAC astrophysicist, said in a news release. "The next step will be to study their molecular content."

Researchers hope new, more powerful telescopes and interferometers will render bright, faraway galaxies in even greater detail, revealing their chemical contents.

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