Hubble Legacy Field Image Shows 500 Million Year Old Universe

News - Hubble Astronomers Assemble Wide View of the Evolving Universe

These limelight-hogging celestial objects combine whirling, pinwheeling arms with scatterings of sparkling stars, glowing bursts of gas, and dark, weaving lanes of cosmic dust, creating truly awesome scenes - especially when viewed through a telescope such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA and the ESA have released a new image called the Hubble Legacy Field that shows the universe as it was 13.3 billion years ago, only 500 million years after the Big Bang.

The HLF image contains 100 times as many galaxies as the previous deep field surveys partly because it covers a wider view from Earth that is nearly the width of the Earth's Moon.

The Hubble Wide View photograph yields a huge catalogue of distant galaxies.

The assembled image comes from 16 years of observations from the jointly run NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) telescope and is part of the Hubble Legacy Field.

"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 expectation is that this survey will lead to an even more coherent, in-depth, and greater understanding of the universe's evolution in the coming years".

A mosaic image made of almost 7,500 photos taken by NASA's Hubble Telescope (pictured) is "the largest and most comprehensive history book of the universe", say scientist.

Before Hubble was launched in 1990, astronomers were able to see galaxies up to about seven billion light-years away, half way back to the Big Bang.

In 2012, a decade of observations were combined to produce the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field image. The image comprises the collective work of 31 Hubble programs by different teams of astronomers. MAST, an online database of astronomical data from Hubble and other NASA missions, is located at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

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. Ground-based observations were unable to establish how galaxies formed and evolved in the early Universe.

The Hubble observes ultraviolet wavelengths, which the atmosphere filters out, and it collects visible light. During this time, NASA's eye in the sky has continually astounded astronomers with incredible images of the cosmos.

This new mosaic contains 100 times as many galaxies as previous deep surveys, making it the most complete portrait of the universe to date. 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.

In addition, NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will allow astronomers to push much deeper into the legacy field to reveal how the infant galaxies actually grew.

Edwin Hubble himself, for whom the telescope is named, once described galaxies as the "markers of space".

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