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NASA Says 'No Image Will Surpass This' Largest-Ever View of Space

There might not be a telescope as widely known as the Hubble Space Telescope. Using 16 years of data from Hubble, originally launched in 1990, astronomers have assembled the widest and most detailed image of space ever created...

largest image hubble space
NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth and D. Magee (University of California, Santa Cruz), K. Whitaker (University of Connecticut), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), P. Oesch (University of Geneva), and the Hubble Legacy Field team

There might not be a telescope as widely known as the Hubble Space Telescope. Using 16 years of data from Hubble, originally launched in 1990, astronomers have assembled the widest and most detailed image of space ever created.

The image, seen in its entirety below, is a composite made of almost 7,500 individual images, according to a NASA statement. The image, called the “Hubble Legacy Field,” reveals around 265,000 galaxies in total. “The faintest and farthest galaxies are just one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see,” the Agency added in the announcement.

hubble image
NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth and D. Magee (University of California, Santa Cruz), K. Whitaker (University of Connecticut), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), P. Oesch (University of Geneva), and the Hubble Legacy Field team

The image was constructed from the work of 31 different Hubble programs, including eXtreme Deep Field (XDF), which provides the deepest view of the universe. "No image will surpass this one until future space telescopes are launched," NASA writes.  That could come from the James Webb Space Telescope, slated to launch in 2021.

It’s certainly not a stunning close-up like you may have seen come back from Juno's orbits around Jupiter, but it’s an entirely different kind of striking. The galaxies pictured date back 13.3 billion years to 500 million years after the big bang. To see just how deep this image goes and how incredible it truly is, it's worth looking at the video below. 

“Now that we have gone wider than in previous surveys, we are harvesting many more distant galaxies in the largest such dataset ever produced by Hubble,” said Hubble Legacy Field image team leader Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz. “This one image contains the full history of the growth of galaxies in the universe, from their time as ‘infants’ to when they grew into fully fledged ‘adults.’”

“The expectation is that this survey will lead to an even more coherent, in-depth and greater understanding of the universe’s evolution in the coming years,” Illingworth said.

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer on the news team at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.