Researchers say that a new Hubble Space Telescope image provides the missing link in star formation. The image, a comprehensive picture of the evolving universe, is among the most colorful deep space images ever captured.
Dubbed the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, the image is a composite of separate pictures taken over the past decade. While astronomers had previously studied the area in visible and near-infrared light, this new ultraviolet perspective completes the image and captures roughly 10,000 galaxies.
The hottest, largest, and youngest stars emit ultraviolet light. By studying UV images of galaxies, astronomers can gain an understanding of how collections of hot stars grow into galaxies. Prior to these UV images, researchers only had data on the closest and most distant galaxies, missing an enormous distance extending from about 5 billion to 10 billion light-years.
"The lack of information from ultraviolet light made studying galaxies in the [Hubble Ultra Deep Field] like trying to understand the history of families without knowing about the grade-school children," said principal investigator Harry Teplitz of Caltech in Pasadena, California. "The addition of the ultraviolet fills in this missing range."
Earth's atmosphere filters out most UV light, so only a space telescope like Hubble can make these UV surveys. The James Webb Space Telescope will be the successor to Hubble, and I can only imagine what glorious pictures to expect from it.
If you could point a space telescope at anything, what would you want to see? I'm partial to any and all nebula images.