Frontier Fields: NASA's Great Observatories Team Up to View the Distant Universe

November 2016

Briefing date: November 3, 2016 (3:30pm)


Dr. Brandon Lawton (STScI)


  • Dr. Jennifer Lotz (Space Telescope Science Institute)

  • Dr. Peter Capak (Infrared Processing and Analysis Center – IPAC)

  • Dr. Georgiana Ogrean (Stanford)

 Slide presentation:

Transcript and audio recording:

Additional resources:

  • NASA Wavelength resources* (PDF file) 290 KB
    *Due to changes in the NASA Wavelength resource database, please use the attached resource PDF in lieu of URLs listed in slides. Original activity URLs should operate as normal.


Images of the distant universe, called deep fields, allows for the study of galaxies throughout the history of the universe. NASA’s Frontier Fields is a program to capture twelve new deep-field images across the electromagnetic spectrum, from X-rays to infrared light. NASA’s Great Observatories — the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory — are taking the lead on this ambitious effort. From the study of the interactions between galaxies and galaxy clusters to using the mass of the clusters to lens and magnify distant background galaxies at the edge of the observable universe, the multi-year Frontier Fields program promises to greatly enhance our understanding of how galaxies and clusters of galaxies evolve with time. In addition to the six galaxy cluster fields, the Frontier Fields includes six deep blank fields – akin to the famous Hubble Ultra Deep Field – to better understand the nature of galaxies across a wider swath of the sky. The results of the Frontier Fields will not only provide better views of galaxy evolution and merging galaxy clusters, but it will also provide a better understanding of the physics of the cosmos. The expected enhancements to our understanding of how galaxies are created and change with time will greatly impact the science return of future missions, such as those by the James Webb Space Telescope. For this professional learning briefing, three astronomers working on the Great Observatories Frontier Fields campaign will provide updates on the program and highlight new discoveries. In addition, supplementary resources will be highlighted.


Dr. Jennifer Lotz was born in Boulder, Colorado and graduated from high school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She received her bachelor of the arts degree in physics and astronomy from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and completed her doctorate in astrophysics at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2003. As a postdoctoral fellow, she worked at the University of California, Santa Cruz and was a Leo Goldberg Fellow at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. She is currently an associate astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, working on preparations for the James Webb Space Telescope. She is the Principal Investigator of the Hubble Frontier Fields.

Dr. Peter Capak received a Bachelor’s of Science in Physics and Astronomy from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and a Masters and Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Hawaii, where he made contributions to the first generation of multi-wavelength galaxy surveys. He was a postdoc at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) where he helped make the first 3-dimensional maps of dark matter in the universe using weak gravitational lensing. Dr. Capak is currently an Associate Research Scientist at the Caltech Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) where his research focuses on the formation of the first galaxies and measurements of dark energy using gravitational lensing. Dr. Capak is also the lead of the international COSMOS collaboration and Principal Investigator for several large Spitzer programs including: the Spitzer Large Area Survey with Hyper-Suprime-Cam (SPLAH) and the Spitzer-Euclid-WFIRST legacy survey. In addition, he is a leading member of the European Space Agency Euclid cosmology mission and the wide-field infrared survey telescope (WFIRST) cosmology science investigation team.

Dr. Georgiana Ogrean is a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University, where she studies particle acceleration by shocks in merging clusters of galaxies. Prior to coming to Stanford, she was a Hubble Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She obtained her PhD in 2014 from University of Hamburg, Germany.