NASA’s Hubble Telescope just released the most vibrant, trippy view of our distant neighborhood that its handlers have assembled thus far in its 24 years of aiming our best lenses at the back fences of the known universe.
For the picture, NASA uses thousands of tricked-out images assembled in 841 of Hubble‘s earthly orbits between 2003 and 2012 of just a certain section of sky known as the Ultra Deep Field (shown above).
According to a NASA statement, the image captures some “10,000 galaxies, extending back in time to within a few hundred million years of the big bang.”
For the astronomy set, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field can be found in a southern-hemisphere constellation known as Fornax. And that’s about any of us are able to see since few are able to collate in NASA’s long-range infrared, near-infrared and ultraviolet light images, producing vivid gradients in color and detail when taken in the context of light years.
“The lack of information from ultraviolet light made studying galaxies in the HUDF like trying to understand the history of families without knowing about the grade-school children,” lead researcher Harry Teplitz, a professor at Caltech, said in the statement. “The addition of the ultraviolet fills in this missing range…. This is the first really deep ultraviolet image to show the power of” combining infrared and ultraviolet images.
One example of why this is useful for more than pure aesthetics: Teplitz says that since ultraviolet light comes from the youngest, biggest and hottest distant stars, this data is able to inform astronomers about how and why some stars are born and others die. According to NASA:
“By observing at these wavelengths, researchers get a direct look at which galaxies are forming stars and where the stars are forming within those galaxies.”
Without you, we’d never get to fathom all of this. Just keep in mind how utterly small this giant area described here really is, from the perspective of people looking up from here. Do this: Stick up your thumb and consider how the Hubble Ultra Deep Field takes up about half of that width in the sky. And what a poignant tiny crack of light that’s shed upon the vast-and-still-incomplete body of knowledge we’ve amassed so far.
It’s one of many Hubble contributions to our view of the heavens. Thus far, the telescope has endured a steady speed of 17,500 mph to capture more than 1 million images, illuminating the existence of nearly 40,000 celestial addresses. In April, the Hubble passed its 24th year in space.
[Images courtesy of NASA]