Since 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has been providing astronomers and non-astronomers alike a glimpse - and think about that for just a second, because it is just a glimpse - of those vast, perhaps unknowable, mysteries, triggering the imaginations of anyone who has ever looked on the star-painted skies with awe.
The deep-sky mosaic, created from almost 7,500 individual exposures, provides a wide portrait of the distant universe, containing 265,000 galaxies that stretch back through 13.3 billion years of time to just 500 million years after the big bang.
But the new set of Hubble images, created from 7,500 individual exposures, is the most detailed Hubble photograph yet.
The image is the end result of a project to combine data from 31 Hubble programs carried out by different teams of astronomers.
The image yields a huge catalog of distant galaxies.
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They stretch back through 13.3 billion years of time to just 500 million years after the Universe's birth in the Big Bang.
"Now that we have gone wider than in previous surveys, we are harvesting many more distant galaxies in the largest such dataset ever produced by Hubble", said Dr. Garth Illingworth, anastronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The Hubble Telescope remains one of mankind's most powerful tools for exploring the universe, even 29 years into its mission.
The image is a mosaic that combines 7500 images from 16 years worth of the Hubble Space Telescope's deep surveys and looks back over 13.3 billion years of our universe's history. The mosaic of images seen here document 16 years of observations for the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Deep-field views of galaxies such as this help astronomers to trace the expansion of the universe to develop our understanding of the underlying physics of the cosmos.
The HLF image contains 100 times as many galaxies as the previous deep field surveys - in part because it takes in a wider view. Many of them are the remnants of galactic "train wrecks", a time in the early universe when small, young galaxies collided and merged with other galaxies.
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Professor Katherine Whitaker, of the University of CT, said: "Such exquisite high-resolution measurements of the numerous galaxies in this catalogue enable a wide swath of extragalactic study".
The global team involved in the Hubble Legacy Field consists of G. Illingworth and D. Magee (University of California, Santa Cruz), K. Whitaker (University of Connecticut), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), P. Oesch (University of Geneva), and the Hubble Legacy Field team.
The Hubble observes ultraviolet wavelengths, which the atmosphere filters out, and it collects visible light. The image revealed more than 5,000 galaxies in an area of the sky that was just a tenth of the width of the full moon. "This will really set the stage for NASA's planned Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)", Illingworth said.
To put into perspective how far away these galaxies are, scientists generated a video that zooms out from the furthest point captured to reveal a panorama of the sky.
The Hubble is a space-based and long-term observatory.
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