The Hubble Space Telescope will conduct a large survey over the coming year, designed to study galaxies in their earliest stages of formation less than 800 million years after the Big Bang and shed light on the processes by which galaxies first assemble. In total, Hubble will spend over 100 orbits of the Earth, or approximately 160 hours, on the BUFFALO project.
This new project builds off one of the largest and most successful Hubble initiatives to date, the Hubble Frontier Fields. Hubble, combined with the immense gravity from six massive clusters turning them into “natural telescopes”, allowed the discovery of galaxies so distant and faint that they could not be imaged by Hubble alone. Their large mass, mainly composed of the so-well ‘unknown’ dark matter, magnifies and distorts the light coming from distant galaxies as it goes through them thanks to an effect called gravitational lensing. Galaxies discovered in the Frontier Fields have then been studied by every major telescope in the world, including the Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra Space Telescope.
BUFFALO will expand the region of Hubble observations around these clusters. One of BUFFALO’s key goals is to determine how rapidly galaxies formed in the first 800 million years after the Big Bang in order to design strategies for using the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.