Fly through distant galaxies with Hubble eXtreme Deep Field
Ever wonder what it’d be like to fly through thousands of galaxies spanning back 13.2 billion years in time? Nearly every dot or smear of light you see is a galaxy imaged by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and there’s now a few 3D visualizations for you to explore.
In 2004, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), with its Advanced Camera for Surveys, provided an unprecedented view of distant galaxies in a small patch of space — about one-hundredths the size of the full moon — in the constellation Fornax. It gave us a look at 13 billion years into the past. Then, the Wide Field Camera 3 installed in 2009 extended the vision into near-infrared light. Hubble Ultra Deep Field infrared (HUDF-IR) detected primordial galaxies as they appeared just 600 million years after the Big Bang. These premier cameras took more than 2,000 images of the same field for a total of 50 days, with a total exposure time of 2 million seconds.
In September 2012, the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (HXDF) combined a decade of Hubble images — along with a complete census of archival datasets — to assemble mankind’s deepest-ever view of the universe (pictured above). Even though HXDF is a smaller field of view than HUDF, it can reach fainter galaxies — roughly 5,500. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what our eyes can see.
This is a scientific visualization depicting a flight through the HXDF galaxies. Using distances (measured and estimated) for about 3,000 galaxies from a 13-billion-light-year dataset, astronomers and visualizers constructed a 3D model of the galaxy distribution. The video ends in blackness, but HubbleSite is quick to explain how that’s not because more distant galaxies don’t exist — but because those galaxies haven’t been observed yet.
Top image: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team
Visualization: F. Summers, L. Frattare, T. Davis, Z. Levay, and G. Bacon (STScI)
Data: G. Illingworth, P. Oesch, and D. Magee (UCSC)