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Astronomers helping to uncover secrets of the universe.

Byline: Helen Turner

THE mysteries of some of the most distant corners of the universe are being uncovered thanks to the pioneering work of South Wales scientists.

Astronomers at Cardiff University are using a cosmic zoom lens which uses the latest technology in space research - which is helping to slowly uncover the secrets of the universe.

The scientists are part of an international team using a natural space phenomenon which combines stardust and infrared light to act like a zoom lens so they can peer into far away galaxies.

The results were found as part of the largest imaging survey so far on Herschel Space Observatory - the largest space telescope of its kind.

Professor Steve Eales from Cardiff University's School of Physics and Astronomy, said: "We have discovered a relatively simple technique which will enable us to unlock the secrets of galaxies hidden from optical telescopes.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg."

Albert Einstein first showed that gravity can cause light to bend. The effect is normally extremely small - it is only when light passes close to a very large object such as a galaxy that the results become easily noticeable.

When light from a very distant object passes a galaxy closer to us, its path can be bent so the image of the distant galaxy is magnified and distorted, called gravitational lenses.

The new images taken by Herschel contain thousands of galaxies, most so far away that the light has taken billions of years to reach earth.

The magnification provided by these cosmic zoom lenses allow astronomers to study much fainter galaxies in more detail. Professor Eales said: "80% of the matter in the universe is thought to be dark matter, which does not absorb, reflect or emit light and so can't be seen directly with our telescopes.

We're finding so many cosmic zoom lenses in our survey, we will really be able to get to grips with this hidden universe."

One of Herschel's three instruments, called SPIRE, was developed into an international consortium led by Professor Matt Griffin from Cardiff University.

Professor Griffin said: "We are continually being surprised by the results from SPIRE. We've gone from the discovery of water where it shouldn't really exist in our galaxy to studying the infant universe. "Now we will be able to use Herschel to study these very distant galaxies as though they were much closer. These results highlight the power of Herschel to reveal the dark side of the universe."

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Article Type:Survey
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 5, 2010
Words:420
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