The Frontier Fields: Survey Design and Initial Results Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • What are the faintest distant galaxies we can see with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) now, before the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope? This is the challenge taken up by the Frontier Fields, a Director's discretionary time campaign with HST and the Spitzer Space Telescope to see deeper into the universe than ever before. The Frontier Fields combines the power of HST and Spitzer with the natural gravitational telescopes of massive high-magnification clusters of galaxies to produce the deepest observations of clusters and their lensed galaxies ever obtained. Six clusters—Abell 2744, MACSJ0416.1-2403, MACSJ0717.5+3745, MACSJ1149.5+2223, Abell S1063, and Abell 370—have been targeted by the HST ACS/WFC and WFC3/IR cameras with coordinated parallel fields for over 840 HST orbits. The parallel fields are the second-deepest observations thus far by HST with 5σ point-source depths of ~29th ABmag. Galaxies behind the clusters experience typical magnification factors of a few, with small regions magnified by factors of 10–100. Therefore, the Frontier Field cluster HST images achieve intrinsic depths of ~30–33 mag over very small volumes. Spitzer has obtained over 1000 hr of Director's discretionary imaging of the Frontier Field cluster and parallels in IRAC 3.6 and 4.5 μm bands to 5σ point-source depths of ~26.5, 26.0 ABmag. We demonstrate the exceptional sensitivity of the HST Frontier Field images to faint high-redshift galaxies, and review the initial results related to the primary science goals.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017