Brodwin was one of six recognized for groundbreaking research as part of the Massive and Distant Clusters of WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) Survey team — called MaDCoWS, for short — a project on which he is a co-principal investigator.
The WISE telescope observes in the infrared and images the entire sky, a combination that is ideal for detecting extremely massive, rare clusters of galaxies. The team’s exciting findings to date include discovering “the most massive galaxy cluster yet found in the first 5 billion years of the history of the universe.” That cluster, MOO 1142, has a mass of more than 1,000 trillion times the mass of our sun, and is 8 billion light years away. Galaxy clusters are the largest objects in the universe held together by gravity. Because of their sheer size, scientists believe they take several billion years to form.
“The findings will have a big influence on how we study the evolution of both massive galaxies and cosmology,” Brodwin said. “The recognition from NASA is wonderful. For the past decade, I’ve worked with several NASA telescopes, and have been a driver for this field of study.”
Earlier this year at the American Astronomical Society annual meeting, Brodwin presented findings of a study he led uncovering the physical properties of the largest galaxy cluster in the early universe, called IDCS 1426 for short, using data from three of NASA’s Great Observatories. Brodwin’s group discovered this immense cluster in 2012, pinpointing its distance at 10 billion light years and its mass at 400 trillion suns.
The European Space Agency selected Brodwin as one of its NASA-nominated science team members to participate in its Euclid mission. NASA is a partner in Euclid, a space telescope designed to probe the mysteries of our dark universe. Scientists think dark energy is responsible for stretching our universe apart at ever-increasing speeds.
Euclid is scheduled to launch in 2020 and spend six years mapping the locations and measuring the shapes of as many as 2 billion galaxies spread over more than one-third of the sky. The scientists will use Euclid to study the dark energy and dark matter that drive the evolution in the universe in ways that are still poorly understood.