archive: SETI FW: FAR-FLUNG GALAXY CLUSTERS MAY REVEAL FATE OF UNIVERSE (STScI-PR98-27)

SETI FW: FAR-FLUNG GALAXY CLUSTERS MAY REVEAL FATE OF UNIVERSE (STScI-PR98-27)

Larry Klaes ( lklaes@zoomtel.com )
Thu, 27 Aug 1998 08:35:17 -0400

----------
From: Zolt Levay
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 1998 4:20 PM
To: pio@stsci.edu
Subject: FAR-FLUNG GALAXY CLUSTERS MAY REVEAL FATE OF UNIVERSE (STScI-PR98-27)

FOR RELEASE: August 27, 1998

CONTACT: Don Savage
NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Bill Steigerwald
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
(Phone: 301/286-5017)

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
(Phone: 410/338-4514)

PRESS RELEASE NO.: STScI-PR98-27

FAR-FLUNG GALAXY CLUSTERS MAY REVEAL FATE OF UNIVERSE

A survey of galaxy clusters by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found
what could be some of the most distant clusters ever seen. If the
distances and masses of the clusters are confirmed by ground-based
telescopes, the survey may hold clues to how galaxies quickly formed
into massive large-scale structures after the Big Bang, and what that
may mean for the eventual fate of the universe.

According to theoretical models, if the clusters turn out to be massive
and very distant, it could imply that the cosmos does not contain enough
matter for gravity to stop the expansion of the universe. These models
predict that such a low-density universe would have built most of its
galaxy clusters long ago.

About 10 to 20 of the farthest clusters in the Hubble survey may be over
seven billion light years away, which means that the clusters, and their
populations of tens or perhaps hundreds of galaxies each, were fully
assembled early in the history of the universe.

Present distance estimates are based on the colors of the galaxies in
each cluster. The redder the overall cluster appears, the more distant
it is, an assumption based on the apparent reddening of light -- known
as red shift -- as stars and galaxies move away from us at high speeds.
The distances can be more accurately measured using a spectrograph
attached to a ground-based telescope.

The Hubble survey contains 92 new clusters uncovered during a six-year
sky survey known as the Medium Deep Survey, led by a team of astronomers
now at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

The project has been led by Professor Richard Griffiths and senior
scientist Dr. Kavan Ratnatunga. The catalog samples an area of the sky
that is small, but scattered over 300 random directions.

The clusters were found using an automated procedure developed by the
Carnegie Mellon team. They first identified large elliptical galaxies
in random fields taken by Hubble. Next, an automated procedure was used
to search statistically for an over-abundance of galaxies around the
large elliptical galaxies. The assumption is that the excess galaxies
all belong to the same cluster. This procedure helped to discriminate
clusters against the field galaxy population which is smoothly distributed
across the sky

Major new telescopes must be used to study these clusters to measure
their distances.

The whole HST catalog of galaxies can be searched on the web at:
http://astro.phys.cmu.edu/mds/

The Hubble observations will be published in the Astronomical Journal.
The research team members are: E. J. Ostrander; K. U. Ratnatunga; and
R. E. Griffiths, Department of Physics, Carnegie Mellon University.

The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of
Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) for NASA, under
contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble
Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA
and the European Space Agency (ESA).

- end -

EDITOR'S NOTE: Images and a caption associated with this release are
available on the Internet at:
http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/1998/27 or via links in:
http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/latest.html or
http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pictures.html.

GIF and JPEG images are available via anonymous ftp to oposite.stsci.edu
in /pubinfo/gif/9827.gif and /pubinfo/jpeg/9827.jpg.

Higher resolution digital versions (300 dpi JPEG) of the release photos
available at http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/1998/27.

TIFF files are available at
http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/tiff/1998/9827a.tif, 9827b.tif and
9827c.tif.

Other images from Hubble's Medium Deep Field catalog are available at
http://astro.phys.cmu.edu/mds/.

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************************************************

PHOTO CAPTION

FOR RELEASE: August 27, 1998

PHOTO NO.: STScI-PRC98-27

FAR-FLUNG GALAXY CLUSTERS MAY REVEAL FATE OF UNIVERSE

A selection of NASA Hubble Space Telescope snapshots of huge galaxy
clusters that lie far away and far back in time. These are selected from
a catalog of 92 new clusters uncovered during a six-year Hubble
observing program known as the Medium Deep Survey.

If the distances and masses of the clusters are confirmed by ground
based telescopes, the survey may hold clues to how galaxies quickly
formed into massive large-scale structures after the big bang, and what
that may mean for the eventual fate of the expanding universe.

The images are each a combination of two exposures in yellow and deep
red taken with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. Each
cluster's distance is inferred from the reddening of the starlight,
which is due to the expansion of space. Astronomers assume these
clusters all formed early in the history of the universe.

HST133617-00529 (left)
This collection of spiral and elliptical galaxies lies an estimated 4
to 6 billion light-years away. It is in the constellation of Virgo not
far from the 3rd magnitude star Zeta Virginis. The brighter galaxies in
this cluster have red magnitudes between 20 and 22 near the limit of the
Palomar Sky Survey. The bright blue galaxy (upper left) is probably a
foreground galaxy, and not a cluster member. The larger of the galaxies
in the cluster are probably about the size of our Milky Way Galaxy. The
diagonal line at lower right is an artificial satellite trail.

HST002013+28366 (upper right)
This cluster of galaxies lies in the constellation of Andromeda a few
degrees from the star Alpheratz in the northeast corner of the
constellation Pegasus. It is at an estimated distance of 4 billion
light-years, which means the light we are seeing from the cluster is as
it appeared when the universe was roughly 2/3 of its present age.

HST035528+09435 (lower right)
At an estimated distance of about 7 to 10 billion light-years (z=1),
this is one of the farthest clusters in the Hubble sample. The cluster
lies in the constellation of Taurus.

Credit: K. Ratnatunga, R. Griffiths (Carnegie Mellon University); and
NASA