The Most Distant Galaxies Ever Seen

In August, after the last repair mission on the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers directed its newest camera towards the same area of sky where just five years ago, the first Hubble Ultra Deep field image was made and recorded a new one - this time

434441 Views | Published on 2nd Jan, 2010

In August, after the last repair mission on the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers directed its newest camera towards the same area of sky where just five years ago, the first Hubble Ultra Deep field image was made and recorded a new one - this time in the near-infrared, a wavelength invisible to the human eye.

Over the course of four days, the camera shutter was open for one hundred seventy three thousand seconds and astronomers collected photons that had left their galaxies over 13 billion years ago. Sensitive to slightly longer wavelengths than its predecessors, the newly installed camera known as Wide Field Camera three recorded objects that are likely the oldest galaxies ever identified, having formed only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. Here are the results.

[Music montage and interlude, couple minutes (music: Daemon portal)]

Hubble's new camera looks closer towards the Big Bang than any of the earlier cameras on the Hubble Space Telescope because it collects light from near-infrared wavelengths. The expansion of the universe stretches light from hot young stars in these very distant galaxies out of the ultraviolet and visible regions of the spectrum and into near-infrared wavelengths, making them redder and invisible to the human eye.

As we build instruments sensitive to longer and longer wavelengths, we are able to peer farther into the cosmos and each wavelength brings us views closer to the edge of the universe. When we focus our instruments outside the narrow band of light visible to our eyes, past the infrared and towards microwave and radio wavelengths, we open other windows that allow us to see deeper than ever before possible.

The farthest we can ever hope to see reaches its limit in the microwave region of the spectrum. This is the wavelength of the radiation given off by the entire universe as it cools, which began just a few hundred thousand years after the big bang.

This latest upgrade of the cameras on board the Hubble Space Telescope is setting the stage for a host of new discoveries. Because of the sensitivity to longer wavelengths, Hubble is showing us the most distant galaxies ever seen by human beings and we are able to capture glimpses of our universe like this.

Hubble Press Release (including animations used):
http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2009/31/

Music used:
http://www.garageband.com/artist/green_man

Tracks:
She Moved Through the Fair
The Shiny Penny

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