In 1995, scientists working with the Hubble Space Telescope released an image of the deep sky that was taken over several days. It revealed thousands of galaxies and was even able to detect light from ancient galaxies of the early universe. The ESO’s Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on the Very Large Telescope has now released a new 3D deep field image that exceeded that which was collected by the Hubble. This new deep field observation was described in a new paper published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. Not only will this allow astronomers to better see the galaxies, but they will be able to study their respective spectra as well.
“After just a few hours of observations at the telescope, we had a quick look at the data and found many galaxies — it was very encouraging,” MUSE principal investigator Roland Bacon said in a press release. “And when we got back to Europe we started exploring the data in more detail. It was like fishing in deep water and each new catch generated a lot of excitement and discussion of the species we were finding.”
While the Hubble took several days to collect light to produce its deep field image, MUSE was able to obtain its image in only 27 hours. MUSE’s image was also much clearer than the one taken by Hubble, allowing astronomers to resolve twenty objects that Hubble hadn’t been able to spot.
“The greatest excitement came when we found very distant galaxies that were not even visible in the deepest Hubble image,” Bacon continued. “After so many years of hard work on the instrument, it was a powerful experience for me to see our dreams becoming reality.”
MUSE was able to collect data for 90,000 spectra, providing unprecedented insight into the composition, distance, and internal motion of 189 objects in the night sky. Excitingly, some of the galaxies included in this group existed in the infancy of the universe, coming into existence during the first billion years. The younger, more nearby galaxies will be able to be analyzed in much greater detail, significantly improving astronomers’ understanding of them.
“Now that we have demonstrated MUSE’s unique capabilities for exploring the deep Universe, we are going to look at other deep fields, such as the Hubble Ultra Deep field. We will be able to study thousands of galaxies and to discover new extremely faint and distant galaxies. These small infant galaxies, seen as they were more than 10 billion years in the past, gradually grew up to become galaxies like the Milky Way that we see today,” Bacon concluded.