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Gravitational lensing

  • Using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope researchers plan to investigate how new stars are born.
  • For this, a natural phenomenon called “Gravitational lensing” is to be used.
  • The gravitational field of a massive object will extend far into space, and cause light rays passing close to that object to be bent and refocused somewhere else.
  • This phenomenon is ‘Gravitational lensing’, simply put, ‘mass bends light’.
  • The effect is analogous to that produced by a lens.
Gravitational lensing UPSC by Legacy IAS Acadey
  • The more massive the object, the stronger its gravitational field and hence the greater the bending of light rays.
  • It is just like using denser materials to make optical lenses results in a greater amount of refraction.
  • In effect, these are natural, cosmic telescopes, called gravitational lenses.
  • These large celestial objects will magnify the light from distant galaxies that are at or near the peak of star formation.
  • The effect allows researchers to study the details of early galaxies too far away. 
  • Gravitational lensing happens on all scales,
  1. The gravitational field of galaxies and clusters of galaxies can lens light.
  2. On smaller objects such as stars and planets.
  3. Even the mass of our own bodies will lens light passing near us a tiny bit, although the effect is too small to ever measure.
  • The Milky Way today forms the equivalent of one Sun every year, but in the past, that rate was up to 100 times greater.
  • NASA now plans to look billions of years into the past in order to understand how our Sun formed.          
  • The programme is called ‘Targeting Extremely Magnified Panchromatic Lensed Arcs and Their Extended Star Formation’, or TEMPLATES.                 
March 2024