Hawaiian telescope presents rare infrared view of the deep Universe
Astronomers have released a stunning infrared viewof the deep Universe containing a number of galaxies created in the firstbillion years following the birth of the cosmos. Theimage is the result of over 1,000 hours of exposure time from the3.8-m (12.4-ft) United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT)located near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
The recently released images form part of theUltra-Deep Survey (UDS), which is the most far-reaching of fiveseparate endeavours thatform the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS). The UDS imagingcampaign focused on an area the equivalent of four times the fullmoon in the night sky. The impressive infrared capabilities of theUKIRT telescope were vital to the success of the campaign in order tocombat a phenomenon known as "redshift."
Redshift occurs when light from distant stars isstretched into longer wavelengths as it travels the vast cosmicdistance from its source to our telescopes. Infraredtelescopes are best suited to capturing this ancient light.
UDS contains around 250,000 ancient galaxies thatwere created relatively soon after the cataclysmic birth of theUniverse via the Big Bang. As with all astronomy images, we arenever viewing the subject of our observations in real time. Light isknown to travel at 299,792,458 meters per second through a vacuum,and while this may sound stupendously fast, it still takes billionsof years to travel the vast gulf that separates the galaxies.
On average, light emitted by the galaxies captured in the UDSsurvey left its source 9 billion years ago, so we are essentiallylooking at the structures as they were at that time. Analyzing such alarge sample of ancient galaxies could allow astronomers to fill in anumber of blanks regarding the formation and evolution of the vastcosmic structures.
For example, the data could explain why the mostmassive galaxies are elliptical in shape, while medium sized galaxies,such as our own Milky Way, often take a disk-like form with pronouncedspiral arms, and even shed light on one of the Universe's mostenigmatic phenomenon, dark matter.
Source: University of Nottingham