Using the most advanced telescopes in the world and in space, we can now find galaxies so far away that the light left them when the Universe was only a few hundred million years old. This lets us see the very early stages of the formation of galaxies, but it’s incredibly difficult: since they’re in the first stages of formation, the galaxies are small and faint, and being so far away makes them even smaller and fainter. To overcome this difficulty, we use an amazing quirk of the theory of General Relativity that causes dark matter to act as a natural telescope in space, magnifying these very distant galaxies to make them bright enough to see. This may sound like magic, because it practically is.

The presenter, Dr. Rachael Livermore, is originally from England, where she used to be an accountant before she decided that making money is overrated and switched from counting pounds to counting photons. She received her PhD in Astrophysics from Durham University and then crossed the Atlantic in search of sunshine, landing at the University of Texas at Austin. In between discovering tacos and barbecue, she worked with the Hubble Space Telescope to discover the faintest galaxies ever seen in the early Universe. In 2017 she moved to the University of Melbourne, where she continues her search for the most distant galaxies. She is also a science fiction fan, and can be found at the Cinema Nova in Carlton where she ruins everyone’s enjoyment of sci-fi movies by tearing apart the science.

This presentation is from Nerd Nite Melbourne.