‘Time Machine’ Allows Scientists to Study Early Universe
A new scientific instrument, a “time machine” of sorts, built by UCLA astronomers and colleagues, will allow scientists to study the earliest galaxies in the universe, which could never be studied before. MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration) will gather spectra, which contain chemical signatures in the light of everything from stars to galaxies, at near-infrared wavelengths, allowing researchers to penetrate cosmic dust clouds and see objects that are otherwise invisible, like the stars circling the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. It also allows for the study of the most distant objects, the light of which has been stretched beyond the red end of the spectrum by the expansion of the universe.
Astronomers plan to use MOSFIRE to study the time when most galaxies formed, as well as the so-called period of re-ionization, when the universe was just a half-billion to a billion years old. Other targets will be nearby stars, young stars and even brown dwarfs, which are stars not quite massive enough for normal nuclear fusion to ignite in their cores.