by Mike Wall
The new version of Hubble's deep image.
grey is the new light that has been found around the galaxies in
light corresponds to the brightness of more than 100 billion suns.
(Image: © A. S. Borlaff et al.)
One of the Hubble Space Telescope's most famous images peered even
deeper into the cosmos than scientists had thought.
That photo is the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF),
which combines hundreds of images taken by the space telescope over
multiple years into the deepest view of the universe ever created.
The composite pic of a
small patch of sky contains a whopping 10,000 galaxies, astronomers
have estimated. (The HUDF also refers to that patch of sky, not just
imagery of it.)
Now, researchers have painstakingly reprocessed the iconic image,
recovering lots of additional light, a new study reports.
"What we have done is
to go back to the archive of the original images, directly as
observed by the HST, and improve the process of combination,
aiming at the best image quality not only for the more distant
smaller galaxies but also for the extended regions of the
largest galaxies," study leader Alejandro Borlaff, from the
Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in the Canary
Islands, said in a statement.
The new work revealed
that some of the galaxies in the HUDF view are nearly twice as
big as previously thought, study team members said.
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST)
launched to Earth orbit in April 1990 aboard NASA's
space shuttle Discovery. The scope
got off to an inauspicious start; its initial images were blurry, a
problem that mission team members traced to a slight flaw in
Hubble's primary mirror.
Spacewalking astronauts fixed that problem in December 1993, giving
Hubble the sharp focus it's known for today.
The 2012 version of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image.
Image: © R. Ellis (Caltech),
and the HUDF 2012 Team/NASA/ESA
That was the first of five servicing missions that repaired,
maintained and upgraded the telescope over the years.
The most recent of these,
which occurred in May 2009, installed what is today Hubble's main
eye on the universe, an instrument called the Wide Field Camera 3
The HUDF image has long been a work in progress.
The first version
combined data gathered by Hubble from late 2003 to early 2004; later
updates have incorporated additional imagery in various wavelengths
The new study (The
Missing Light of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field), which was
published this month in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics,
looked at the 2012 incarnation of the HUDF, which relied heavily on
data gathered by the WFC3.