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News Release 9 of 53

May 1, 2014 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2014-21

Hubble Astronomers Check the Prescription of a Cosmic Lens

May 1, 2014: If you need to check whether the prescription for your eye glasses or contact lenses is still accurate, you visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. The doctor will ask you to read an eye chart, which tests your visual acuity. Your score helps the doctor determine whether to change your prescription.

Astronomers don't have a giant eye chart to check the prescription for natural cosmic lenses, created by galaxy clusters. The gravity of these cosmic lenses warps space around them, magnifying and brightening the light from distant objects behind them. Without these lenses, background objects would be too dim to be detected by even NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. But how do astronomers know whether the prescription for these zoom lenses, which tells them how much an object will be magnified, is accurate? Astronomers using the Hubble telescope have discovered the next best thing to a giant cosmic eye chart: the light from distant exploding stars behind galaxy clusters.

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Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Perlmutter (UC Berkeley, LBNL), A. Koekemoer (STScI), M. Postman (STScI), A. Riess (STScI/JHU), J. Nordin (LBNL, UC Berkeley), D. Rubin (Florida State University), and C. McCully (Rutgers University)

Science Credit: NASA, ESA, the Supernova Cosmology Project [J. Nordin (E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab/University of California, Berkeley), D. Rubin (Florida State University), J. Richard (University of Lyon), E. Rykoff (Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory), G. Aldering (E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab), R. Amanullah (The Oskar Klein Centre, Stockholm University), H. Atek (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), K. Barbary (Argonne National Laboratory), S. Deustua (STScI), H. Fakhouri (E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab/University of California, Berkeley), A. Fruchter (STScI), A. Goobar (The Oskar Klein Centre, Stockholm University), I. Hook (University of Oxford/INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma), E. Hsiao (Carnegie Observatories, Chile), X. Huang (University of California, Berkeley/University of San Francisco) J.-P. Kneib (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne/Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille), C. Lidman (Australian Astronomical Observatory), J. Meyers (Stanford University), S. Perlmutter and C. Saunders (E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab/University of California, Berkeley), A. Spadafora (E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab), and N. Suzuki (Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, University of Tokyo)], and the CLASH Team [B. Patel, C. McCully, and S. Jha (Rutgers University), S. Rodney and D. Jones (Johns Hopkins University), O. Graur (Johns Hopkins University/Tel Aviv University/American Museum of Natural History/New York University), J. Merten (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), A. Zitrin (California Institute of Technology), A. Riess (STScI/Johns Hopkins University), T. Matheson (National Optical Astronomy Observatory), M. Sako (University of Pennsylvania), T. W.-S. Holoien (Rutgers University), M. Postman and D. Coe (STScI), M. Bartelmann (University of Heidelberg), I. Balestra (INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste/INAF- Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte), N. Benitez (Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia), R. Bouwens (Leiden Observatory), L. Bradley (STScI), T. Broadhurst (University of the Basque Country), S.B. Cenko (Goddard Space Flight Center/University of California, Berkeley), M. Donahue (Michigan State University), A. Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley), H. Ford (Johns Hopkins University), P. Garnavich (University of Notre Dame), C. Grillo (Niels Bohr Institute), L. Infante (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile), S. Jouvel (Institut de Ciències de l'Espai), D. Kelson (Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington), A. Koekemoer (STScI), O. Lahav (University College, London), D. Lemze (Johns Hopkins University), D. Maoz (Tel Aviv University), E. Medezinski (Johns Hopkins University), P. Melchior (Ohio State University), M. Meneghetti (INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna), A. Molino (Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia), J. Moustakas (Siena College), M. Nonino (INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste), P. Rosati (Universita di Ferrara/ESO), S. Seitz (Universitats-Sternwarte), L. Strolger (STScI), K. Umetsu (Academia Sinica), and W. Zheng (Johns Hopkins University)]