Scientists used 16 years worth of observations from the Hubble Space Telescope to create a breathtaking mosaic of the distant universe.
The image, called the Hubble Legacy Field, contains a view of about 265,000 galaxies stretching back to up to 500 million years after the Big Bang.
Thousands Of Previously Unseen Galaxies In 1 Amazing Photo
The Hubble Legacy Field is a result of several deep-field surveys from the 90s up to the present, including the eXtreme Deep Field or XDF in 2012. The team of astronomers behind the image used nearly 7,500 individual exposures and spent more than 250 days to create "the largest and most comprehensive history book of the universe" today.
"Now that we have gone wider than in previous surveys, we are harvesting many more distant galaxies in the largest such dataset ever produced," stated Garth Illingworth from the University of California, Santa Cruz who led the team that created the image. "No image will surpass this one until future space telescopes like James Webb are launched."
The image covers an area of the night sky that, if viewed from the surface of Earth, would be about the size of the moon. For comparison, the XDF, which assembled 10 years worth of observations from Hubble, covered an area that is less than one-tenth of the diameter of the Moon.
The Quest To Understand The Universe
The Hubble Legacy Field shows 100 times as many galaxies as previous surveys. Astronomers said that the farthest galaxies in the image are one ten-billionth of the brightness that the human eyes can perceive.
"One exciting aspect of these new images is the large number of sensitive color channels now available to view distant galaxies," added Rychard Bouwens of Leiden University, who participated in the creation of the image. "With images at so many frequencies, we can dissect the light from galaxies into the contributions from old and young stars, as well as active galactic nuclei."
By looking deeper and farther into space, scientists can go back in time and learn about the early universe. It offers scientists clues about the fundamental questions of humanity, including how life appeared on Earth.
The Hubble Legacy Field is only the first in a series of images that will be released. The team of astronomers is already working on a second image that has more than 5,200 Hubble exposures.
The upcoming James Webb Space Telescope is expected to allow scientist to look much farther into the universe when it launches in 2021. It will allow scientists to observe how infant galaxies exvolve over time.