Deepest Ultraviolet Image Shows a Sea of Distant Galaxies

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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.

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.

Source: ESO

13 Replies to “Deepest Ultraviolet Image Shows a Sea of Distant Galaxies”

  1. literally mind-boggling. absolutely breathtaking.
    what a feat, not the image, but the creation of what the image is of. i wish i knew all the answers!

    great post. thanks

  2. The full resolution image is amazing and worth the wait to download.

    When you look at this image you can’t help, but to think about the probability of life in the universe. There must be billions of planets out there that could potentially harbor life.

  3. Can’t find words to describe the full resolution image. Infinitely beautiful.
    Seeing this kind of images makes me think it’s almost impossible that we are alone. This universe must be crowded with life.

  4. Some of the galaxies in this image took only 2 billion years to form. I love these sort of time-travel postcards from the past, but something is kinda bothering me. I know it’s difficult to imagine that length of time, but 2BY just doesn’t seem long enough for clouds of hydrogen to coalesce, form stars and then galaxies. Is it possible that the age of the universe is older than we think?

  5. You have not seen anything yet. When we have an observatory on the far side of the moon, we will discover that such galaxies go on seemingly forever. Think, please. The Earth is more than 4.5 billion years old. Ask yourselves the question; how long did it take for the inner galaxy we call The Milky Way to form? It has at its centre a black hole, how long did that take to form? Why, if the Earth is out at the edge of the galaxy, do we assume the rest of the galaxy is also 4.5 billion years old? If it is the same age, how did it form, where did it form? Here, locally?

    yes, there are many who will talk of inflation. and that it formed at the time of the big bang, ~14 billion years ago. But what if they are wrong?

  6. Chris – nobody is claiming the galaxy is the same age as Earth… I think you may have your wires crossed a bit there…

    …and Andrew – do you claim that 2 BY is too little time for galaxy formation based purely on intuition? That’s pretty shaky ground – why would we have any sort of ‘feel’ for how long galaxies take to form? We must rely on the physics, and at the moment the physics seems to clearly state that the universe is in fact around 12.7 billion years old. There is a great deal of evidence backing the current cosmological model. There are also quite a few loose ends, but that is another story…

  7. Simply amazing! One of the most beautifull images I have ever seen! I believe without a shadow of doubt that we are not alone.

  8. To Jarod, I have to agree with you. It is difficult to imagine or argue that our species is ‘alone’ in the vastness of all we can see. Unfortunately, it appears that mankind will most likely never make contact with another intelligence because of the incredible cosmic distances involved. Modulated radio frequency energy, at about any power level, diminishes to femto-watt levels, or less, after a few light years of distance travel. I suspect SETI is wasting time gathering rf for detection with multi-antenna arrays. There is simply nothing to amplify for detection. A little like looking for a burning candle on the surface of Alpha C.

  9. To CHUCK:
    That’s true if your looking at spacetime in a linear fashion as in one point of origin and one direction. What about every other theory of space travel that’s ever been suggested?
    Wormholes and such?

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