When it comes to looking into and imaging the past, the Hubble Space Telescope continues to produce shots of breathtaking wonder.
Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the image below was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field.
Astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of mankind’s deepest-ever view of the universe (click to enlarge) – Credit: NASA; ESA; G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R. Bouwens, Leiden University; and the HUDF09 Team
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation Fornax (latin for Furnace) located in the southern sky, far away from the glare of the Milky Way, and was created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004.
By collecting faint light over many hours of observation (around 500 hours) it revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken.
A finger held at arm’s length would appear to be about twice the width of the moon in this image (click to enlarge) – Credit: NASA/ESA and Z. Levay, STScI; Moon Image Credit: T. Rector/I. Dell’Antonio/NOAO/AURA/NSF
The new full-color XDF image contains about 5,500 galaxies even within its smaller field of view. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.
The history of galaxies – from soon after the first galaxies were born to the great galaxies of today, like our Milky Way – is laid out in this one amazing image.
Garth Illingworth of the University of California at Santa Cruz (principal investigator of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field program) said, “The XDF is the deepest image of the sky ever obtained and reveals the faintest and most distant galaxies ever seen. XDF allows us to explore further back in time than ever before”.
It should certainly keep astronomers busy for a while, at least until the James Webb Space Telescope launches! With it’s specialised infrared instruments it is expected to find even fainter galaxies that existed when the universe was just a few hundred million years old.
You can read more details on the NASA Hubble Website here. Galactic!