Connolly Granted Use of Hubble Space Telescope for Galaxy Study

Natalia Connolly
Natalia Connolly
Assistant Professor of Physics Natalia Connolly has been granted observing time on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) during its “Cycle 18,” which runs from Sept. 1, 2010, through Aug. 31, 2011. HST cycles are time periods during which research projects, selected in a highly competitive peer review process, are executed. Fewer than one-third of all research proposals are accepted. Cycle 18 will have about 3,000 HST orbits available to researchers.

Connolly and her collaborators will perform strong lensing measurements of galaxies in order to understand their evolution. Strong gravitational lensing is a phenomenon similar to optical lensing. As predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity and confirmed by numerous experiments, a large mass (such as a massive galaxy or a cluster of galaxies) between an object and an observer will bend the light coming from the object, producing an image or multiple images. An analysis of the image allows very precise measurement of the intervening mass. Connolly’s group will use this method to measure the masses of a number of giant elliptical galaxies, previously flagged from ground-based observations performed by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III collaboration. The measurements will allow them to understand the evolution of mass structure in such galaxies, an important piece in the overall puzzle of galaxy formation and evolution.

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