This Is The Most Detailed Image Of The Universe Ever Captured

NASA has just published the most detailed view of the universe ever taken. It's called the Extreme Deep Field (XDF) and was created from 10 years of Hubble Space Telescope photographs. The incredible image shows some the oldest galaxies ever observed by humans, going 13.2 billion years back in time.

It's a mind-blowing and extremely humbling view. Not only for what it shows, but for what it doesn't show. While this image contains about 5500 galaxies, it only displays a tiny part of the sky, a ridiculously small slice of the universe. As you can see in the image below (make sure to expand it to see it complete), the photo only focus on a small area of the constellation Fornax.

It is an insignificant part of the universe. An arbitrary sample, photographed repeatedly with the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3 on board the Hubble. And yet, it's bubbling with billions of stars, bursting with trillions of planets. Some of those planets, no doubt, had or have life on them.

According to Dr Garth Illingworth, principal investigator of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2009 program, "the XDF is the deepest image of the sky ever obtained and reveals the faintest and most distant galaxies ever seen. XDF allows us to explore further back in time than ever before."

As Dr Illingoworth says, the XDF is a "time tunnel into the distant past". Indeed, and it's the most beautiful time machine I can imagine.

The image was created by using multiple photographs taken since 2003 by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3. The XDF is the heir of the Ultra Deep Field images.

This graphic shows (click to expand) the foreground (galaxies less than five billion light years away from us), background (between five billion and nine billion years ago) and very far background galaxies (more than nine billion years), which are "one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see".

This video explains how this historical image was assembled:

Soon, when the James Webb Space Telescope is operative, scientists will give the area of XDF another pass using its infrared instrument. Then scientists will be able to add galaxies that existed when the universe was just a few hundred million years old.

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    Ok, so this is a new deep field picture?

      Not quite. They did the Ultra Deep Field (UDF) a while back, as you know, which was the awesome look at a blank bit of sky on a super long exposure. This XDF isn't another attempt at a smaller, blanker patch of sky on a longer exposure or anything. All they've done is taken the UDF, and added on top of it images of new discoveries etc since the UDF was done, as a sort of composite image.

    Not the "universe" but an infinitesimal speck of the infinite universe. When will we get rid of the primitive model of Philolaus's "central fire"!? The "big bang" is a local event of little significance in the infinite. When will a new Copernicus or Kepler arise to shake this "scientific" arrogance?

      People forget to ask the obvious: How can these images contain fully formed galaxies that logic would assume are many billions of years old themselves, at distances of 13.2 billion light years away, in a universe that the big bang theory predicts is little older than 13.7 billion years.

        Actually, the main reason this image is interesting is that it goes back to so soon to galaxy formation, which, from what we can tell, only took place on the timescale of tens to hundreds of million years . As an upper bound, we know that there were fully formed galaxies only 500 million years after the big band. Actual star formation only took a few hundred thousand years.

    I still cannot understand how it is that we can see so far back in time when, if the big bang created all matter, we (or our constituent bits) must have been there. It is like seeing ourselves as we were at the age 1 year or so. I do understand that light takes time to travel, but the light from 10 to 13 billion years ago should long since have passed us by.

      Hi keith,
      The universe as you know ia approximately 15-20 billion light years in radius with we being almost at centre. It means it will take around 20 billion years for lignt from the end of universe as you know now to reach you. It means you are watching something 20 billion years ago. The present universe might be something different. But it acquired this diameter in few seconds after bigban. The expansion then slowed down. Thus it will be reasonable to say that as per Big ban theory, we are looking back in time when we watch the skies.

        Yes, I understand that, but the atoms, or quarks or whatever, that our galaxy is made of were produced during the big bang. So if we see stars and so on from only a few million years after the big bang we should be next door to those stars, only a few million or so light years; unless the inflation was much larger and for much longer than the figure I have seen quoted.

        And to reply to Navnath's comment, I live in South Africa and the amount of money which is wasted or stolen through corruption could probably eliminate poverty in South Africa. So keep on with the sciences, at least most of the scientific news is good news.

    So much space... :D

    and to think that's just a few seconds of our view, if that.

    heyyy god..
    tell them...why r they so busy in solving ur mystries...
    dont waste time & money on this....let it diverted to some good job like to eradicate poverty in devloping nations... not on silly project for e.g higs boson gord particle...or investing in this space programessss,,, now xdf

      How about you pray to end poverty and leave NASA to continue its work.

        Lol, religious types hate science so bad. Everyday it disproves more and more of what they believe and from how poorly that paragraph was written, I'd say there may be a lack of education there to couple it with. Go read some books other than the bible dude, you'd be amazed what's out there.

      GOD (via Pope): Eradicate poverty? Heal the sick? You need to get your priorities straight. We ought to be focusing on how evil the gays are - have you persecuted your fair share today?

    God where do you sit?

    What scientists at NASA observed is of a Galaxy 13.5 billion years ago. No one is sure whether that galaxy exists now. No one can set an outer limit for space. Outer space is infinite. even if we travel at the speed of mind, we will never reach the outer periphery as the question naturally arise as to what lies outside the imaginary outer periphery. If we compare this "most detailed image of the universe ever captured" to the ocean or sand on earth, this is not even a full drop or a few grains. The universe lies/extends infinitely vast beyond any body's imagination. Even if we take a billion galaxy, it will not be much less than a pinch of dust of the whole earth, not even a handful.

      Well written dude, all true and bloody trippy to get your head around. I loved Sagan as a kid and his explanations of the universe blew my young mind away.......and planted the first seeds of religious dissent.


      You are quite right. To make a bang you need something to make the bang in, and something to make the bang of. Before the beginning there was void. Not NOTHING, because that implies that there was something somewhere else.

    Lookin back in TIME !!! INCREDIBLE but we are able to !!!

    Is the UNIVERSE limitless or has borders ? If it has got borders what lies beyond ???

    Anybody there to shed light ???

    may be we are also huge creatures , big bang chopped us to tiny humans....


      I rather thinjk that the good Bishop from Ireland got it wrong. From my reading of the bible I cannot remember any mention of the time or date of the beginning of the world. The Khoe/San Bushmen in South Africa are a very ancient race, older than 6 000 years.

    Just think... Elvis might be out there somewhere ...

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