Washington, DC - September 9, 2009 -- Using a distant quasar as a cosmic flashlight, a new instrument aboard the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Hubble Space Telescope has begun probing the invisible, skeletal structure of the universe.  Called the cosmic web, it is the diffuse, faint gas located in the space between galaxies. More than half of all normal matter resides outside of galaxies. By observing the cosmic web, astronomers can probe the raw materials from which galaxies form, and determine how this gas was assembled into the complex structures of the present-day universe.  Using the light from the quasar PKS 0405-123, located 6.4 billion light-years away, the newly installed Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) on Hubble probed a string of gas clouds residing along the light path at different distances. Quasars are the bright cores of active galaxies and are powered by supermassive black holes. Thousands of quasars have been observed, all at extreme distances from our Milky Way galaxy. The most luminous quasars radiate at a rate equivalent to a trillion suns. The COS spectrum shown here reveals the absorption lines of elements that make up the intervening gas clouds traversed by the quasar's light. COS detected three to five times more lower-density filaments of hydrogen in the cosmic web than were seen in previous observations along this line of sight. The instrument also detected evidence of glowing oxygen and nitrogen that predominantly trace strong shocks in the filamentary cosmic web. These shocks are produced by gravitational interactions between intergalactic clouds of gas falling onto filaments in the web and by the fast outflow of material from star-forming galaxies.  COS produced this spectrum and detected many previously unseen filaments in only a quarter of the time it took to produce spectra in previous studies of this object (using earlier instruments). The spectrum is also of higher quality (with a better signal-to-noise ra
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Washington, DC - September 9, 2009 -- Using a distant quasar as a cosmic flashlight, a new instrument aboard the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Hubble Space Telescope has begun probing the invisible, skeletal structure of the universe. Called the cosmic web, it is the diffuse, faint gas located in the space between galaxies. More than half of all normal matter resides outside of galaxies. By observing the cosmic web, astronomers can probe the raw materials from which galaxies form, and determine how this gas was assembled into the complex structures of the present-day universe. Using the light from the quasar PKS 0405-123, located 6.4 billion light-years away, the newly installed Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) on Hubble probed a string of gas clouds residing along the light path at different distances. Quasars are the bright cores of active galaxies and are powered by supermassive black holes. Thousands of quasars have been observed, all at extreme distances from our Milky Way galaxy. The most luminous quasars radiate at a rate equivalent to a trillion suns. The COS spectrum shown here reveals the absorption lines of elements that make up the intervening gas clouds traversed by the quasar's light. COS detected three to five times more lower-density filaments of hydrogen in the cosmic web than were seen in previous observations along this line of sight. The instrument also detected evidence of glowing oxygen and nitrogen that predominantly trace strong shocks in the filamentary cosmic web. These shocks are produced by gravitational interactions between intergalactic clouds of gas falling onto filaments in the web and by the fast outflow of material from star-forming galaxies. COS produced this spectrum and detected many previously unseen filaments in only a quarter of the time it took to produce spectra in previous studies of this object (using earlier instruments). The spectrum is also of higher quality (with a better signal-to-noise ra

Filename: 090909Hubble09.jpg
Source: Consolidated News Photos
Date: 9 Sep 2009
Location: Washington District of Columbia United States of America
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team via CNP
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