These three close-up views show the rich variety of galaxies that appear in the new panoramic, full-color image of the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS) field, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The full field reveals 7,500 galaxies in various stages of assembly and stretching back through most of the universe's history.
Astronomers combined new observations taken by the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and data taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) to make this mosaic.
The image combines a broad range of colors, from the ultraviolet, through visible light, and into the near-infrared. Such a detailed multi-color view of the universe has never before been assembled in such a combination of color, clarity, accuracy, and depth.
Hubble's sharp resolution and new color versatility, produced by combining data from the two cameras, are allowing astronomers to sort out the various stages of galaxy formation. These three views reveal galaxy shapes that appear increasingly chaotic at each earlier epoch, as galaxies grew through accretion, collisions, and mergers. The galaxies range from the mature spirals and ellipticals in the foreground, to smaller, fainter, irregularly shaped galaxies, most of which are farther away, and therefore existed farther back in time. These smaller galaxies are considered the building blocks of the larger galaxies we see today.
Ultraviolet light taken by WFC3 shows the blue glow of hot, young stars in galaxies teeming with star birth. The orange light reveals the final buildup of massive galaxies about 8 billion to 10 billion years ago. The near-infrared light displays the red glow of very distant galaxies – in a few cases as far as 12 billion to 13 billion light-years away – whose light has been stretched, like a toy Slinky, from ultraviolet light to longer- wavelength infrared light due to the expansion of the universe.
The WFC3 observations were taken in September and October 2009; the ACS observations in 2004. The view covers a portion of the southern field of a large galaxy census called the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), a deep-sky study by several observatories to trace the evolution of galaxies.
Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Windhorst, S. Cohen, M. Mechtley, and M. Rutkowski (Arizona State University, Tempe), R. O'Connell (University of Virginia), P. McCarthy (Carnegie Observatories), N. Hathi (University of California, Riverside), R. Ryan (University of California, Davis), H. Yan (Ohio State University), and A. Koekemoer (Space Telescope Science Institute)