Herschel highlights cosmic zoom lenses

Herschel-ATLAS image
Image credit: ESA / SPIRE / Herschel-ATLAS / SJ Maddox

The first results from the Herschel-ATLAS survey have shown that far-infrared surveys provide a remakably efficient method of finding gravitational lenses, which allow astronomers to zoom in on much more distant galaxies than they would otherwise be able to.  These results are from the data taken during the Science Demonstration Phase of the Herschel mission, and have now been released to the astronomical community.

The first image is shown on the right, with the five gravitational lenses found shown as insets.  The gravity of a foreground galaxy, which is unseen by Herschel, has magnified the light from a much more distant galaxy, making it much brighter in the Herschel image.  The galaxies look much redder than most of the galaxies Herschel sees because the wavelength of the light has been stretched over its 11billion year journey.

To see the image at higher resolution, and to see how gravitational lenses work, click here.