HST SM4: Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3

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HST SM4: Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3
08.29.08
 
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Heidi Hammel, Astronomer Space Science Institute: My primary field of study is planetary astronomy and I’m most interested in the outer solar system, things that lie beyond Jupiter. That part of our solar system holds a lot of clues to how our own solar system formed and how it got to be the way it is. The Wide Field Camera is going to be very useful for those who are studying the Kuiper Belt cause it will allow them to see more objects over a wider field. When we’re studying the planets in our solar system, we’re most interested in high resolution capability, you know getting the best pictures that we can get. And so having the new cameras helps us in that regard.

Catherine Heymans, Astronomer, University of British Columbia: If you look out into the universe, you see stars and you see galaxies, but that only forms a very small fraction of the universe. Only about 2% is the matter that you can actually see and the rest is dark.
Dark Matter imprints on the images of very distant galaxies. From that we can detect this very weak signature recover that signature that the dark matter is imprinting on these galaxies. This signature is called weak gravitational lensing.
The new instrument that’s going to be very interesting for lensing is WFC3, Wide Field Camera 3 in the near infrared channel, because that helps us look even deeper into the universe.

Sandra Faber, Professor of Astronomy, University of California: My field is the evolution of the universe as a whole coming out of the Big Bang, but in particular the formation of galaxies. Galaxies are really the building blocks of our universe. I believe that the new instruments will have a huge impact. We’re going to be looking farther back in time and this will allow for the first time, a large census of galaxies when the universe was just 2 or 3 billion years old. That turns out to be a very critical epoch in the history of the universe.

Tommaso Treu, Post Doctoral Scholar, Astronomy: The Wide Field Camera 3 will enable us to study much fainter objects, especially in the infrared, that is at light that at its longer wavelength than the visible light. And the most distant galaxies, the ones that are further away, the ones that we see closer to the time when the universe is being formed, they appear to us in the infrared because the expansion of the universe stretches the wavelengths and we see them longer than we would otherwise.

Sandra Faber, Professor of Astronomy, University of California: The universe evolves extremely fast at those early times and so Wide Field Camera 3 will make the difference between truly infant galaxies than the somewhat toddlers that we’re seeing today.

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