NASA / ESA / Arizona State University
Although the start date is uncertain and the design encounters delays, astronomers already have stars in their eyes when they cross over the galaxy reflect James Webb Space Telescope. Scientists now hope to capture the light of individual stars within the first generation of stars in the history of the universe as a replacement for the world-famous Hubble under the right conditions.
"The search for the first stars and black holes has long been a goal of astronomy, and they will tell us about the characteristics of the early universe." So far, we've only focused on our computers, "says Rogier Windhorst of Arizona State University in Tempe, an astronomer who speaks in a press release about the potential of the Webb.
At the heart of the search for the first stars is the search for stars that have been fitted with a gravitational lens Gravitational lensing is an effect of Einstein's general theory of relativity works on the principle that mass bends light, and when a gravitational field of a humongous object extends far into space, adjacent rays of light bend and focus elsewhere.
Normal gravitational lenses can magnify the light by factors of 10 to 20, but that is not enough for what Windhorst and his co-authors want Webb rather, something that is referred to as the "Cluster Caustic Transit". In optics, a caustic network refers to how refracted and reflected light is projected onto another surface – think of broken light on a table moving through a glass of water.
When the light of a first star candidate has diverged to a mobile galaxy cluster, the star's light could be amplified 10,000 times. Given the amazing technical capabilities of the Webb, that might be enough to capture it.
The chances, Windhorst admits, are small. Many things have to be just right, and space is a big place. But it is by no means impossible. Earlier this year, astronomers used the same principles of gravitational lensing that Windhorst outlines to discover the farthest star, Icarus.
The longer an object appears in the universe, the more likely it is to be part of a gravitational lens. Windorst already has some target clusters for the Webb to explore, including the Monster El Gordo Cluster.
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"We just have to be lucky and watch these clusters long enough for the astronomical community to monitor these clusters during Leb's lifetime." Windhorst says:
The Webb will have a full dance card when he finally runs aground. Astronomers have no shortage of questions that need answers. The earliest stars would undoubtedly be a great find – they could teach the scientists the physical properties of the early universe, from the formation of the star to some of the earliest chemical reactions.
Source: Arizona State