Release 573 of 1,057
Mining for Cosmic Treasures
Release date: Jan 12, 2004 12:00 AM (EST)

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has snapped an unparalleled image of a wide swath of the sky, unveiling 10,000 galaxies, which could help astronomers understand how large galaxies like our Milky Way evolved.

Release ID: STScI-2004-42
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Mining for Cosmic Treasures
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Credit: NASA and the GEMS Collaboration

The Full Story
Release date: Jan 12, 2004
Mining for Cosmic Treasures

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has snapped an unparalleled image of a wide swath of the sky, unveiling 10,000 galaxies, which could help astronomers understand how large galaxies like our Milky Way evolved.

The new mosaic, taken by the orbiting observatory's Advanced Camera for Surveys, is the largest color photograph ever made by the telescope, covering an area of sky about the apparent size of the full moon. To construct the image, a team of astronomers stitched together 78 separate exposures showing the region around the constellation Fornax in the Southern Hemisphere. The astronomers compared constructing the mosaic to making a big picture of a mountain range by pasting together individual pictures of each mountain.

They studied such a huge piece of the sky to obtain a more accurate picture of the evolution of galaxies. "Because galaxies clump together in space, smaller images may accidentally land on unusual patches," said Dr. Daniel H. McIntosh, an astronomer at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and a member of the research team. "For example, a picture of the U.S. at night shows bright areas near the cities and dark areas in the mountains, forest, and farmlands. To understand the population of the United States, we would need an image covering both the rare, bright cities and the dark but sparsely populated farmland and wilderness. Furthermore, galaxies, like people, are incredibly diverse. Only by having images of a large sample of galaxies can one explore the huge diversity of galaxy types, sizes, and shapes, as well as discover important but very brief episodes in their lives."