"It's a really spectacular image," said Dr Michele Trenti, a science team member from the University of Cambridge, UK.
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 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.