The world’s most powerful radio telescope helped show that the universe’s star-forming engines were revved up far earlier than once believed – before it was even fully built. That same telescope in the Chilean desert may soon also help scientists understand the detailed structure of dark matter in the universe.
Researchers who discovered the early abundance of what are known as starburst galaxies, described earlier this month in Nature, will be chatting about their findings at a Kavli Foundation Google hangout at 12 p.m. Pacific time Friday in the window above. (Ask questions via Twitter #KavliAstro or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The Atacama Large Millimeter Array, comprised of some 66 giant radio telescopes sitting in the Atacama desert, had its proverbial ribbon cut this month. But using just a third of the array before ALMA was fully operational, a team of scientists were able to pick out a handful of strange, bright objects in the sky that turned out to be starburst galaxies from early in the universe's history.
The astronomers using the ALMA telescope took advantage of an effect known as "gravitational lensing," when a massive object actually bends the light of an object behind it, magnifying that background light.
The researchers then looked at the light’s redshift – a measure of how much the light is being stretched as the universe expands – which would tell them how far, and thus how old, the galaxies were.