Space telescopes use different “filters” to see different corners of the universe. Some of them are experts at identifying objects that emit X-ray waves—like Chandra. Others, such as Fermi, have focused on capturing gamma radiation, for example. Hubble is the most prolific telescope in history, working in the visible and part of the infrared spectrum.
With all these explanations, here’s the news. An international team of astronomers has released the largest image of a galaxy ever taken by Hubble in the “near-infrared” range. The work seeks to find potential objects outside the Milky Way for study by the newly launched James Webb as well as other future space telescopes.
To take this photo, Hubble used the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), a camera with a large field of view that allows you to study astronomical objects over a wider range of wavelengths. The target is a sky area of just 1.35 square degrees — about the diameter of six full moons — but it contains thousands of distant galaxies.
The production of the images relied on a new technique that allowed the capture of a field of view eight times larger than the standard previously used by Hubble. The technique, known as Drift and Shift (DASH), enables the space telescope to take eight pictures per orbit instead of just one, as it usually does.
It took a total of 250 hours to combine the various photos into a mosaic – just like when we take panoramas on our phones. Previously, it could take 2,000 hours to make the same mosaic. Ancient Galaxies can be enjoyed below:
The study will be published in a scientific journal Astrophysical Journal, But it is already available for consultation on the arXiv website.
Hubble captures 10 billion-year-old galaxy
By identifying potential research targets, the James Webb Space Telescope will be able to examine these galaxies in greater detail, thanks to its 6.5-meter mirror – which can collect more light than Hubble.
By looking in the infrared range, astronomers can see the oldest and most distant galaxies, some of which show what they looked like about 10 billion years ago—when our galaxy was still forming. Mosaics will allow you to map star-forming regions and learn how the oldest and most distant galaxies originated.
Additionally, the work will help identify rare phenomena such as the largest galaxies in the universe, highly active black holes, and galaxies on the brink of collisions and mergers. “This allows us to preview future scientific discoveries and allows us to develop new techniques to analyze these large datasets,” said Ivelina Momcheva, head of data science at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy.
But taking images of distant galaxies larger than Hubble’s will have to wait for the launch of a new generation of space telescopes, such as NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space and ESA’s Euclid, Scheduled to launch. In 2023 and 2027, respectively.
The Hubble Space Telescope has been operating for more than 30 years and is expected to remain operational until at least June 2026. James Webb has produced the first scientific-quality image. The material should be released from July 12th.