Magazine article ASEE Prism

The Cosmos Up Close

Magazine article ASEE Prism

The Cosmos Up Close

Article excerpt

The cosmic web is a vast network of streams of gases between the galaxies. Christopher Martin, a professor of physics at Caltech, says that for the past 30 years he's been consumed by the question: What is that gas doing? He's now helped design and build an instrument that may provide the answer: the Keck Cosmic Web Imager, or KCWI, which will soon be integrated into the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. It's intended to be one of the world's best instruments for providing spectral images of cosmic objects, providing high-resolution images that help astronomers study the compositions, velocities, and masses of objects, such as stars and galaxies, in ways never before possible. As galaxies evolve, scientists know that gases fuel them, but it's been difficult to get a close enough look at the process to understand how it works. The leading theory of the cosmic web is that the gases stream into the cores of galaxies, where they condense and form new stars. …

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