When the universe was young, stars formed at a much higher rate than they do today. By peering across billions of light-years of space, Hubble can study this early era. But at such distances, galaxies shrink to smudges that hide key details. Astronomers have teased out those details in one distant galaxy by combining Hubble’s sharp vision with the natural magnifying power of a gravitational lens. The result is an image 10 times better than what Hubble could achieve on its own, showing dense clusters of brilliant, young stars that resemble cosmic fireworks.
Johnson at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

Graduate student Traci Johnson headed a team, which included Prof. Keren Sharon, that pushed the Hubble Space Telescope beyond its limits. Using gravitational lensing to give HST a boost, they detected star formation in a very distant galaxy. Such work gives us a glimpse of what Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, to be launched in October, 2018, will be able to do. Johnson discusses the results in a NASA press release, along with commentary by collaborator Jane Rigby of of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center on the hopes for new data from the Webb telescope. More information can be found in research papers led by Johnson:
Paper I (on reconstructing the galaxy from the lensed image)
Paper II (on the observed star formation)