The Hubble space telescope, despite its foibles, is perhaps best known for the humbling, amazing, and awesome image known as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). The HUDF, assembled from 800 separate exposures, offered humans an incredible look back at the history of the universe (and no fewer than 10,000 galaxies). Well, another magnificent piece of human engineering, the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, played some cosmic Chasing the Jones' this past week when it captured the deepest ground-based U-band image of the universe. Ever. We are so small.Space junkies, go to town with the full presser below. And, for those of you with some time on your hands, the ESO has a link to the full 80 MB TIFF image in the page we linked to below.
A Pool of Distant Galaxies – the deepest ultraviolet image of the Universe yet Anyone who has wondered what it might be like to dive into a pool of millions of distant galaxies of different shapes and colours, will enjoy the latest image released by ESO. Obtained in part with the Very Large Telescope, the image is the deepest ground-based U-band image of the Universe ever obtained. It contains more than 27 million pixels and is the result of 55 hours of observations with the VIMOS instrument. This uniquely beautiful patchwork image, with its myriad of brightly coloured galaxies, shows the Chandra Deep Field South (CDF-S), arguably the most observed and best studied region 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 new image released by ESO combines data obtained with the VIMOS instrument in the U- and R-bands, as well as data obtained in the B-band with the Wide-Field Imager (WFI) attached to the 2.2 m MPG/ESO telescope at La Silla, in the framework of the GABODS survey. The newly released U-band image – the result of 40 hours of staring at the same region of the sky and just made ready by the GOODS team – is the deepest image ever taken from the ground in this wavelength domain. At these depths, the sky is almost completely covered by galaxies, each one, like our own galaxy, the Milky Way, home of hundreds of billions of stars. Galaxies were detected that are a billion times fainter than the unaided eye can see and over a range of colours not directly observable by the eye. This deep image has been essential to the discovery of a large number of new galaxies that are so far away that they are seen as they were when the Universe was only 2 billion years old. 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.[European Southern Observatory via Slashdot]