Like watching individual frames of a motion picture, the Hubble deep surveys reveal the emergence of structure in the infant Universe and the subsequent dynamic stages of galaxy evolution.
Prior to the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, astronomers were limited to observing galaxies at a maximum distance of about 7 billion light-years away, which shows objects only halfway back to the Big Bang, according to the statement. All together, the composite is made up of almost 7,500 individual exposures.
This latest Hubble mosaic consists of around 30 times as many galaxies as previous deep fields did. Of those, 100 of them were some of the most distant known at the time, existing when the universe was just 800 million years old. The XDF, which penetrated deeper into space than this wider view, lies in this region, but it covers less than one-tenth of the full Moon's diameter.
"Our goal was to assemble all 16 years of exposures into a legacy image", explained Dan Magee, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, the team's data processing lead.
The Hubble Legacy Fields program, supported through AR-13252 and AR-15027, is based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. The tiny, faint, most distant galaxies in the image are similar to the seedling villages from which today's great galaxy star-cities grew.
You're seeing images captured with visual wavelengths that range from ultraviolet to near-infrared light.
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This graphic compares the dimensions of the Hubble Legacy Field on the sky with the angular size of the Moon.
This full view of the Hubble Legacy Field shows the uneven edges cropped out of the "cleaner" image, above, showing off all of the roughly 265,000 galaxies contained in the composite.
The image comprises the collective work of 31 Hubble programs by different teams of astronomers. The new portrait, a mosaic of multiple snapshots, covers nearly the width of the full Moon, and chronicles the universe's evolutionary history in one sweeping view.
NASA has spent more time trained on this small area than on any other region of the sky, totalling more than 250 days. Observations with ground-based telescopes were not able to establish how galaxies formed and evolved in the early Universe.
Edwin Hubble himself, for whom the telescope is named, once described galaxies as the "markers of space".
The 2012 Hubble eXtreme Deep Field was assembled by combining ten years of Hubble observations taken of a patch of sky within the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. In 2002, Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys went even deeper to uncover 10,000 galaxies in a single snapshot.
In the image is a range of different sorts of observations - different light interpreted in many different ways. Those instruments will include NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope.