Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fantastic View of the Universe

Hubble Space Telescope image - dubbed eXtreme Deep Field - of the universe. In the image are 5,000 galaxies. The image took 2,000 exposures lasting a total of 500 hours.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has produced one of its most extraordinary views of the Universe to date.   Called the eXtreme Deep Field, the picture captures a mass of galaxies stretching back almost to the time when the first stars began to shine. But this was no simple point and snap - some of the objects in this image are too distant and too faint for that. Rather, this view required Hubble to stare at a tiny patch of sky for more than 500 hours to detect all the light.
"It's a really spectacular image," said Dr Michele Trenti, a science team member from the University of Cambridge, UK.

The patch of sky captured in Hubble's XDF image, compared in size to the Moon
"We stared at this patch of sky for about 22 days, and have obtained a very deep view of the distant Universe, and therefore we see how galaxies were looking in its infancy."
The XDF will become a tool for astronomy. The objects embedded in it can be followed up by other telescopes. It should keep scientists busy for years, enabling them to study the full history of galaxy formation and evolution.

The Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
  • The Hubble telescope was carried into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990
  • It creates images of the Universe from near ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light
  • Hubble helped astronomers calculate the age of the Universe, which is about 13.7 billion years old
  • The telescope is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble

It incorporates more than 2,000 separate exposures over 10 years using Hubble's two main cameras - the Advanced Camera for Surveys, installed by astronauts in 2002, and the Wide Field Camera 3, which was added to the observatory during its final servicing in 2009. Beyond the visible To see what it does, Hubble has to reach beyond the visible into the infrared. It is only at longer wavelengths of light that some of the most distant objects become detectable.

Of the more than 5,000 galaxies in the XDF, one of them (UDFj-39546284) is a candidate for the most distant galaxy yet discovered. If this is confirmed, it means it is being seen just 460 million years after the Universe's birth in the Big Bang.  But as remarkable as the XDF is, it is a prelude for an even deeper Hubble view that is likely to be released later this year.  The expectation is that it will contain galaxies even closer to the Big Bang.
To see the first starlight in the Universe will most likely require Hubble's successor. The James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2018, will carry a much larger mirror and even more sensitive instruments.

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