For almost 30 years the Hubble Space Telescope has been one of our best eyes in the sky, scanning the heavens clear of the light-warping effects of Earth's atmosphere. Now astronomers have released one of the most comprehensive views of the universe's evolution captured by Hubble, combining ultraviolet, infrared and visible light into one image that shows thousands of galaxies spread across space and time.
The stars we see when we look up at night don't tell the whole picture by a long shot. Thanks to the constant expansion of the universe, light from the most distant galaxies has been shifted towards the infrared end of the spectrum. Those a bit closer to home, meanwhile, can be imaged across a broader spectrum.
These new mosaic images provide a panoramic view of around 15,000 galaxies, in the center of the fields observed by The Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS). About 12,000 of these galaxies are in the star-formation stage, with some of the most distant spots (the reddest ones) dating back 11 billion years.
The images were born out of a program called the Hubble Deep Ultraviolet (HDUV) Legacy Survey, and covers 14 times more sky than a similar image released back in 2014.
Hubble is no stranger to snapping shots that really highlight the incredible scale and detail of the cosmos. In 2015 the Space Telescope celebrated its 25th anniversary with a stunning photo of the Westerlund 2 cluster. The following year Hubble revealed a chaotic, star-forming region of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a smaller galaxy that orbits our Milky Way. And just a few months ago, a team completed a survey of 50 galaxies in our local area, with beautiful results.
Although it's exceeded its original mission life by more than five years, we could still have decades of Hubble photos ahead of us. Its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, has been delayed until March 2021, but it's set to see even further away in time and space, right back to when the first stars began to flicker on.
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