The Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) is one of the most iconic and impressive images ever taken of deep space. The image, taken of a tiny section of the southern sky, shows thousands of galaxies, putting the vastness of space into perspective for humans. Now astronomers have improved upon this classic image, adding a wider range of colors to the mix.
Astronomers working with NASA and the ESA this week revealed an updated image of the HUDF. The new image combines older images of the field with a new one layering on ultraviolet light seen in the field. Previously the HUDF image was composed of visible light and near-infrared light images taken of the field in 2003 and 2012.
The 2014 image will now allow astronomers to study even younger galaxies located in the HUDF. By looking at the ultraviolet spectrum, astronomers will be able to identify which galaxies have hotter, larger, younger stars and therefore the galaxies that are in the midst of greater star formation.
“The lack of information from ultraviolet light made studying galaxies in the HUDF like trying to understand the history of families without knowing about the grade-school children,” said Harry Teplitz, principal investigator for the Hubble Space Telescope and an astronomer at Caltech. “The addition of the ultraviolet fills in this missing range.”
The Hubble Space Telescope has been the workhorse of visible-light astronomy for over two decades. Along with the decade-old Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have surveyed much of the sky in visible and infrared light. Astronomers are currently waiting on the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, which will be more powerful than both the Hubble and the Spitzer telescopes.
“Ultraviolet surveys like this one using the unique capability of Hubble are incredibly important in planning for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope,” said Rogier Windhorst, a Hubble team member and an astronomer at Arizona State University. “Hubble provides an invaluable ultraviolet light dataset that researchers will need to combine with infrared data from Webb. This is the first really deep ultraviolet image to show the power of that combination.”