Greetings, Everyone. Today I’m going to talk about something special, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field photograph, which was taken over a 4 month period in 2003-2004. The HUDF is the deepest look into the sky that humans have created, at least so far, and I find it to be a mesmerizing image. The articles that I’ve written up to this point have really been kind of a preparation for this one, getting you used to the ideas of “big” and “deep” as they relate to astronomy, and hopefully add to the impact of the HUDF image.
You have undoubtedly heard of and seen images of the Hubble Deep Field photographs which were taken in 1995 and 1998. The HDF examined a tiny portion of the sky near the handle of the Big Dipper for 10 days in 1995. The size of the area examined is the size of a dime seen from 75 feet away, and the photograph shows nearly 2,000 galaxies. It was big news at the time.
In 2002, the Hubble got an upgraded camera for performing surveys (ACS) that has twice the field of view and greater sensitivity than the camera used for the HDF, and allows the Hubble to see objects 2 to 4 times fainter. Astronomers chose an area of the sky below the constellation Orion, and in late September 2003, they started taking exposures of the area, and by mid January 2004, an exposure time of 11.3 days had been accumulated with the ACS and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-object Spectrometer (NICMOS). When all of the exposure data had been assembled, it yielded the photograph at the top of this article, showing over 10,000 galaxies. The oldest galaxies in the image date from 800 million to perhaps as little as 400 million years after the Big Bang. I find that to be a very mind boggling piece of information, in fact, I think I’ll go have a lie down for a few minutes…but not on the TV remote thank you…
Whoo, that’s better. Another thing to keep in mind while looking at the HUDF image, is that except for a handful of local stars, every dot of light in the image is a galaxy. My, but there are a lot of them, aren’t there? And this from an area of the sky that would fit inside the largest impact crater on the moon, or as one astronomer put it “like looking at the sky through an eight foot drinking straw”. Personally, I have never looked through an eight foot drinking straw at anything, so I’ll have to take his word for it.
Here is an excellent cropped image that doesn’t fall apart when you click on it for the large version:
All of the information that I’ve used in this article was taken from The HubbleSite website:
I urge you to go and visit the site, there is much more information there, and tons of wonderful pictures that are too large to try and post here, as WordPress complains bitterly when I force it.
Here is a cool video I found there that zooms into the HUDF:
The video loads slowly for me, but it’s worth waiting for.
So, was it worth it, or did I just waste your time?