Dive right in to this image that contains a sea of distant galaxies! The Very Large Telescope has obtained the deepest ground-based image in the ultraviolet band, and here, you can see this patch of the sky is almost completely covered by galaxies, each one, like our own Milky Way galaxy, and home of hundreds of billions of stars. A few notable things about this image: galaxies were detected that are a billion times fainter than the unaided eye can see, and also in colors not directly observable by the human eye. In this image, a large number of new galaxies were discovered that are so far away that they are seen as they were when the Universe was only 2 billion years old! Also…
This image contains more than 27 million pixels and is the result of 55 hours of observation, made primarily with the Visible Multi Object Spectrograph (VIMOS) instrument. To get the full glory of this image, here’s where you can download the full resolution version. It’s worth the wait while it downloads. Or click here to be able to zoom around the image.
In this sea of galaxies – or island universes as they are sometimes called – only a very few stars belonging to the Milky Way are seen. One of them is so close that it moves very fast on the sky. This “high proper motion star” is visible to the left of the second brightest star in the image. It appears as a funny elongated rainbow because the star moved while the data were being taken in the different filters over several years.
The VLT folks describe this image as a “uniquely beautiful patchwork image, with its myriad of brightly coloured galaxies.” It shows the Chandra Deep Field South (CDF-S), one of the most observed and best studied regions in the entire sky. The CDF-S is one of the two regions selected as part of the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), an effort of the worldwide astronomical community that unites the deepest observations from ground- and space-based facilities at all wavelengths from X-ray to radio. Its primary purpose is to provide astronomers with the most sensitive census of the distant Universe to assist in their study of the formation and evolution of galaxies.
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The image encompasses 40 hours of observations with the VLT, just staring at the same region of the sky. The VIMOS R-band image was obtained co-adding a large number of archival images totaling 15 hours of exposure.