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Starts With A Bang

Mostly Mute Monday: Hubble unveils deepest view of the Universe, ever

Ultra-deep field? Move over; there’s a new deepest-view of all!

“In other words, theory attempts to segregate the minimum number of possible worlds which must include the actual world we inhabit. Then the observer, with new factual information, attempts to reduce the list further. And so it goes, observation and theory advancing together toward the common goal of science, knowledge of the structure and observation of the universe.” –Edwin Hubble

To see farther out into the Universe than ever before, you must gather the greatest amount of light possible.

The Hubble Space Telescope, as imaged during the last and final servicing mission. Image credit: NASA.

The way to do that is:

  • go to space,
  • with the largest telescope you can,
  • and observe a clear patch of sky for as long as you can.
The region selected for the original Hubble Deep Field image. Image credit: NASA.

In 1995, Hubble imaged a dark region of space with few stars and no known galaxies 342 times over a ten day span.

The original Hubble Deep Field, which discovered thousands of new galaxies in the abyss of deep space. Image credit: R. Williams (STScI), the Hubble Deep Field Team and NASA.

We discovered ~3,000 galaxies, where none were known previously.

A small section of the original Hubble Deep Field, featuring hundreds of easily distinguishable galaxies. Image credit: R. Williams (STScI), the Hubble Deep Field Team and NASA.

As Hubble’s cameras were improved and longer observing times were used, we saw even deeper than before.

2004′s Hubble Ultra Deep Field, where over 10,000 galaxies were discovered with a more advanced (WFC3) camera. Image credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith and the HUDF Team (STScI), and B. Mobasher (STScI).

2004′s Ultra-Deep Field revealed 10,000 galaxies, some from more than 10 billion years ago.

The Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (XDF), which revealed approximately 50% more galaxies-per-square-degree than the previous Ultra-Deep Field. Image credit: NASA; ESA; G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R. Bouwens, Leiden University; and the HUDF09 Team.

Most recently, a portion of this was imaged for even longer periods of time, revealing 5,500 galaxies in a region just 1/32,000,000th of the sky, from as long as 13.2 billion years ago.

The full UV-visible-IR composite of the XDF; the greatest image ever released of the distant Universe. Image credit: NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI).

Imaged in ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared light, extrapolating this region to the entire sky indicates that the Universe contains over 170 billion galaxies.

As the James Webb Space Telescope prepares for launch, we anticipate finding even greater numbers of galaxies at the greatest distances of all.

Mostly Mute Monday tells the story of a single astronomical phenomenon or object primarily in visuals, with no more than 200 words of text.

This post first appeared at Forbes. Leave your comments on our forum, check out our first book: Beyond The Galaxy, and support our Patreon campaign!


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