Hubble reveals galactic drama [image 1]
A galactic brawl. A close encounter with a spiral galaxy. Blue wisps of galaxies. These close-up snapshots of galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field reveal the drama of galactic life. Here three galaxies just below centre are enmeshed in battle, their shapes distorted by the brutal encounter.
The galaxies in this panel were plucked from a harvest of nearly 10 000 galaxies in the Ultra Deep Field, the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos.
The Ultra Deep Field observations, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys, represent a narrow, 'deep' view of the cosmos. Peering into the Ultra Deep Field is like looking through a 2.5 metre-long soda straw.
In ground-based images, the patch of sky in which the galaxies reside (just one-tenth the diameter of the full Moon) is largely empty. Located in the constellation Fornax, the region is so empty, in fact, that only a handful of stars within the Milky Way galaxy can be seen in the image.
In this image, blue and green correspond to colours that can be seen by the human eye, such as hot, young, blue stars and the glow of Sun-like stars in the disks of galaxies. Red represents near-infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, such as the red glow of dust-enshrouded galaxies.
The image required 800 exposures taken over the course of 400 Hubble orbits around Earth. The total amount of exposure time was 11.3 days, taken between 24 September 2003 and 16 January 2004.