This picture might look like your typical scene from outer space. In fact, some of us have seen similar pictures in the past. However, astronomers have assembled this new, improved photo of our deepest-ever view of the universe, something a lot of us have never seen before.
The photograph is called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF. Astronomers were able to assemble this picture by combining ten years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope images. Those snapshots were taken of just a small area of space in the southern sky within the constellation Fornax through the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The new XDF picture captures just a fraction of the universe, yet it reveals thousands of galaxies. In fact, it contains 5,500 galaxies just in its small field of view, some of which are 13.2 billion years old. NASA says the universe itself formed 13.7 billion years ago.
In a statement released by NASA, “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,” said Garth Illingworth, principal investigator of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2009 program.
Before Hubble was launched in 1990, it was difficult for scientists to see a detailed depiction of the universe. Astronomers could only see galaxies to seven billion light years away – about halfway across the universe. Now, with this new XDF image, astronomers have an even better look at our universe’s distant past and how galaxies have formed and evolved over time.