Ever wonder what it’d be like to fly through thousands of galaxies spanning back 13.2 billion years in time? Nearly every dot or smear of light you see is a galaxy imaged by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and there's now a few 3D visualizations for you to explore.
In 2004, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), with its Advanced Camera for Surveys, provided an unprecedented view of distant galaxies in a small patch of space -- about one-hundredths the size of the full moon -- in the constellation Fornax. It gave us a look at 13 billion years into the past. Then, the Wide Field Camera 3 installed in 2009 extended the vision into near-infrared light. Hubble Ultra Deep Field infrared (HUDF-IR) detected primordial galaxies as they appeared just 600 million years after the Big Bang. These premier cameras took more than 2,000 images of the same field for a total of 50 days, with a total exposure time of 2 million seconds.
In September 2012, the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (HXDF) combined a decade of Hubble images -- along with a complete census of archival datasets -- to assemble mankind’s deepest-ever view of the universe (pictured above). Even though HXDF is a smaller field of view than HUDF, it can reach fainter galaxies -- roughly 5,500. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what our eyes can see.
This is a scientific visualization depicting a flight through the HXDF galaxies. Using distances (measured and estimated) for about 3,000 galaxies from a 13-billion-light-year dataset, astronomers and visualizers constructed a 3D model of the galaxy distribution. The video ends in blackness, but HubbleSite is quick to explain how that’s not because more distant galaxies don’t exist -- but because those galaxies haven’t been observed yet.
Top image: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team
Visualization: F. Summers, L. Frattare, T. Davis, Z. Levay, and G. Bacon (STScI)
Data: G. Illingworth, P. Oesch, and D. Magee (UCSC)