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The Deepest Picture of the Universe Ever Taken: the Hubble Extreme Deep Field 185

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the do-the-dew dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers have unveiled what may be the deepest image of the Universe ever created: the Hubble Extreme Deep Field, a 2 million second exposure that reveals galaxies over 13 billion light years away. The faintest galaxies in the images are at magnitude 31, or one-ten-billionth as bright as the faintest object your naked eye can detect. Some are seen as they were when they were only 500 million years old."
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The Deepest Picture of the Universe Ever Taken: the Hubble Extreme Deep Field

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  • by icebike (68054) * on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @03:58PM (#41454601)

    Ok, I officially feel small now.

    I'm not sure whether to be more impressed by:
      1) the scale of the universe itself
      2) the ability of some insignificant bags of protoplasm on an insignificant planet near a run of the mill star, in a less than impressive galaxy could find a way to actually see that far
      3) the fact that they held the camera that steady for 2 million seconds (23 days)
      4) That the camera moved 36 million miles during those 23 days and it didn't make any difference in the final image.

    But other than that, the image looks exactly like a gazillion other images from Hubble, so one has to take it on faith that it is what it says it is.

    • by N0Man74 (1620447) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:04PM (#41454717)

      4) That the camera moved 36 million miles during those 23 days and it didn't make any difference in the final image.

      But other than that, the image looks exactly like a gazillion other images from Hubble, so one has to take it on faith that it is what it says it is.

      IANAA, but it is that it is all relative. My gut feeling says that moving 36 million miles is still fairly still in the scale of the universe. Don't get me wrong, I'm still very impressed.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:06PM (#41454769)

      Ok, I officially feel small now.

      so..... can we have your liver, then?

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:09PM (#41454827)

      Also consider that this image shows 5,500 or so galaxies in a tiny fraction of the sky. There are something like 100 billion galaxies in the known Universe and trillions upon trillions of stars (cue Carl Sagan). I'd say life on another planet isn't just a possibility, but a statistical certainty. Of course, finding/reaching/communicating with that life might be another matter entirely.

      • by Matheus (586080) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:28PM (#41455183) Homepage

        I was pondering on this recently and was thinking the following:

        1) Light travels at that good ole' speed it does.

        2) Scientists continually marvel at the fact they are seeing the universe far away the way it was millions or billions of years ago.

        3) I never hear them comment on the fact what they are seeing has changed as much as our near universe in all of that time.

        SO... what's to say we're not looking at the beginnings of literally millions (+?) of civilizations that in a few million years would look to the Hubble like we do now from up close?

        Astronomers spend SO much of their time looking at light-speed forced history that I feel a certain slight is paid to what the present truly may be. The universe may be absolutely teaming with life that we won't be able to even see the beginnings of in ours or even our great-great-great-great-...........-great-great-grandchildren's lifetimes.

        Anyway... back to pondering...

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @06:14PM (#41456617)

          Astronomers spend SO much of their time looking at light-speed forced history that I feel a certain slight is paid to what the present truly may be.

          Time is not universal. Across these distances, you can't just take our local clock and apply it to some remote location. Your question of "What is happening 13 light-years away simultaneously with what we consider the present?" just doesn't have an answer on its own. You need to define your point of observation. If you are using us as your observer, then what you see through the telescope is what you get. That's your present day reality.

          Astronomers grok this. That's why they don't bother with the science fiction,

        • Yes. Aliens are watching us, but all they see at this moment is dinosaurs. Weird, eh?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        I'd say life on another planet isn't just a possibility, but a statistical certainty

        I'd say that the liklihood of us being the only life is remote, but not certain. And if there is life out there, it may well be that we simply don't find it, because it was here long before us, long after we become extinct, or just too damned far away (which would be any galaxy except our own).

        There may be something special about his rock. We just don't know. Until we find life elsewhere, there is no life elsewhere.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:11PM (#41454855)

      5) the fact that the universe could smile and say "cheese" so long . . .

    • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:12PM (#41454887)
      Space, is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.
      • by Pope (17780) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:32PM (#41455279)

        Space is big
        Space is dark
        It's hard to find
        A place to park
        Burma Shave

        • NASA noted a cloud of Baryons likely goes out more than 300,000 light years out from the center of the Milky Way (maybe 70,000 light years in radius by memory).

          The Baryon cloud is at a temperature of 1-2.5 million kelvin !!!

          Hence, with your Warp Drive you won't need to worry about a warm Burma Shave. In fact you won't worry any more at all as you will assume an equal position with the Baryons.

    • > the ability of some insignificant bags of protoplasm on an insignificant planet near a run of the mill star,

      Wow - with self esteem like that, no wonder you feel like crap. :-)

      • > the ability of some insignificant bags of protoplasm on an insignificant planet near a run of the mill star,

        Wow - with self esteem like that, no wonder you feel like crap. :-)

        Radio signals pass right through us humans.

        Essentially, we really are just "sentient bags of water".

        It is depressing to think about. Must go watch Family Guy marathon.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Maybe you should try one of those pumps.
    • by na1led (1030470)
      And just think, our universe maybe vastly smaller in comparison. To me, it only seems logical that we must live in a multiverse, because how could Time itself start 14.6 Billion years ago?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by UnknownSoldier (67820)

        > because how could Time itself start 14.6 Billion years ago?

        . /sarcasm What! You mean don't follow the dogma/nonsense that out of nothing came time and space!? Heretic! ;-)

        --
          "If energy can neither be created nor destroyed, then logically the universe must of have ALWAYS existed."

      • by icebike (68054) *

        But is the multiverse running serialy or in parallel?

        And are each of similar size?
        I keep getting this picture of Marvin the Martian [wikipedia.org] strutting around alone on his single planet around a single sun with nothing else in sight.

        • If temporal dimensionality only exists inside universes, I'm not sure there's a meaningful answer to that question. Otherwise, who the hell knows.

        • by na1led (1030470)
          I suspect it's a serial multiverse. If time always existed, then our universe may have continued to expand infinitely in size.
    • The picture represents only about 2 minutes of arc on the sky.. For comparison a fist stretched out twoard the sky consumes about 10 degrees of arc (1 degree = 60 minutes).

      If you imagine the height of the outstreched fist the entire picture was taken from an area 300 times smaller.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      To put it slightly more into perspective, each of the dots in the picture are not stars. They're galaxies. That's somewhere around one to several hundred billion stars in each dot.

      It's like, there are as many galaxies out there visible to us as there are stars in our own galaxy. Mind-boggling.

    • 2) the ability of some insignificant bags of protoplasm on an insignificant planet near a run of the mill star, in a less than impressive galaxy could find a way to actually see that far

      And then you realize that we, those insignificant bags of protoplasm, are the means through which the universe experiences and understands itself.

      With apologies to whomever I stole that from...

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:00PM (#41454639) Homepage Journal

    2 million seconds is 33,333 minutes which is 555 hours which is 23 days. You mean they took an exposure for 23 days to get this image?

    I'm not saying it can't be done, only that this seems a bit off.

    • by Qzukk (229616) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:03PM (#41454693) Journal

      I'm not saying it can't be done, only that this seems a bit off.

      It would have been longer but the guy with the finger on the shutter button had a sudden nose itch, and well, you know how it goes.

    • I don't know why that seems off to you. We're talking about extremely faint signals with absolutely terrible signal-to-noise ratios. It takes a huge amount of data to generate enough parity to resolve what's signal and what's noise. To be honest, I'm surprised this wasn't one of hubble's first missions.

      • by icebike (68054) *

        What signal to noise ratio do you have in an optical telescope in space?

        • It's a digital detector that bigass mirror is pointing at.
        • by ZosX (517789)

          The signal to noise ratio on the sensor inside the hubble. There is inherent noise from the electronics on the sensor. The more you amplify your signals, the more you amplify noise. Study CCD sensors. You'll find the reason that they had to stack this exposure 2000 times. The noise is random, so you can average it out with multiple exposures. Looks like they did a 15-16 minute exposure here.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:04PM (#41454733) Homepage

      They took many exposures totaling 23 days. From TFA:

      This image is the combined total of over 2000 separate images, and the total exposure is a whopping two million seconds, or 23 days!

      • I saw that after I posted but couldn't reply to myself because of the enforced time delay.

        That makes much better sense that what was posted in the original story (which shouldn't surprise anyone).

    • by vlm (69642)

      2 million seconds is 33,333 minutes which is 555 hours which is 23 days. You mean they took an exposure for 23 days to get this image?

      I'm not saying it can't be done, only that this seems a bit off.

      Stacking. You can do this at home with a little scope and a CCD. Obviously this is an art requiring extensive signal processing expertise.

      I'm guessing off the top of my head its a heck of a lot more like 3000 ten minute exposures stacked up. And probably a heck of a lot of rounding (like not 2 million but precisely 1834101.2352 seconds). So if you get an orbit every two hours, and each orbit you grabbed data for 10 mins, it would take like a year to gather the data and then stack em up.

      Obviously if you'

      • by vlm (69642)

        Silly me I forgot to mention why you stack instead of stare.
        If you stare then looking at the physics of a CCD imager the photon, err, its resulting charge, that arrived 10% of the way thru the exposure, is going to start leaking thru the gate insulator. So is a digital result of 12345 equivalent to 12345 photons arriving the instant before you read the array out, or 98765 photons a long time ago that leaked outta the array? But if you take nice short exposures you don't have that issue.

        Ask an EE... there

      • by tobiah (308208)

        " So if you get an orbit every two hours,.."
        they could try looking up.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        > Stacking. You can do this at home with a little scope and a CCD. Obviously this is an art requiring extensive signal processing expertise.

        I'm pretty sure Photoshop will stack images for you mostly automatically.

        • by drkim (1559875)

          > Stacking. You can do this at home with a little scope and a CCD. Obviously this is an art requiring extensive signal processing expertise.

          I'm pretty sure Photoshop will stack images for you mostly automatically.

          RegiStax.
          Free.
          http://www.astronomie.be/registax/ [astronomie.be]

    • by Teun (17872)
      Why would that be off, because you would have blinked?
      Anyway, the story says they did it in some 2000 sessions of 1000 secs. and then added the photo's up.
    • by daver00 (1336845)

      I think it takes way longer than that. If I remember correctly they open the shutter for a few minutes at a particular point in the telescope's orbit and catch a few photons. They then repeat this process every time the telescope swings around to that same spot, i.e. they can't just open the shutter for 2 million seconds otherwise there would just be a big smear of light. They actually add up small bit of a few seconds at a time, so it probably took more like months or maybe even years.

      • by ZosX (517789)

        This is really impressive considering the logistics of taking this same picture 3000 times from orbit.

  • Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:00PM (#41454645)

    Seriously. Wow. The universe is awesome. Anyone unimpressed is either lying or ignorant.

  • Anyone have this image in 1920x1080?

  • ...it's full of stars! OK so I used the tagline from a movie. But then it is cool to see this stuff so far away while most of us mortals toil in our cubicles. Almost unreal like it's Photoshop (SETIcon II had panel discussion and one topic debated are difficult to tell actual images from CGI. Hint: don't process the raw images from scopes and spacecraft).
    • Actually, considering this image: My God.... It's full of galaxies! (Which themselves are full of stars.)

      Then again, that doesn't flow as nicely.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think Carl [bigskyastroclub.org] put it best:

      "We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, e

  • So many stars and still that Great Silence. Not a single, not even remotely meaningful signal.

    When one looks at ancient neolithic art on stones or on animal bones, a meaningfulness, an intelligence is immediately visible. Not a slightest doubt when one sees it.

    But billions of stars and not a single radio message. Not even a more or less complicated rhythm. Just background noise.

    Could it be that we see sort of a mirage?
    • by hazah (807503)
      The problem with coming to conclusions before you have evidence is that you'll start fitting the evidence into your conclusion. How about you don't assume what we are looking at and simply take it in as it comes?
    • "Could it be that we see sort of a mirage?"

      An Einstenian mirage.

      Think about this for a moment: if in one of those galaxies in the further side of time and space, and intelligent species pointed a Hubble-like telescope to us, even if the telescope were sensible enough... they wouldn't see not a single, not even remotely meaningful signal, if only for the reason that they would be looking about 9 billion years too early.

    • The amount of time that intelligent critters who can manipulate tools and create recognizable radio signals for communication is likely to be very brief. In less than a century, data compression and encryption will make almost all of our radio traffic look like static from the outside. The vaguely intelligible bits sent out prior to that are so weak that they'll likely never be received or interpreted. Bottom line? Lack of intelligent radio indicates nothing.

      Intelligence != tool using either. Dolphins are

      • Re:The Great Silence (Score:4, Informative)

        by mister_playboy (1474163) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @07:15PM (#41457467)

        The amount of time that intelligent critters who can manipulate tools and create recognizable radio signals for communication is likely to be very brief. In less than a century, data compression and encryption will make almost all of our radio traffic look like static from the outside. The vaguely intelligible bits sent out prior to that are so weak that they'll likely never be received or interpreted. Bottom line? Lack of intelligent radio indicates nothing.

        Jupiter's natural radio emissions are much more powerful than the total of all Earth-based signals. Even if one was looking for radio signals from our system, we wouldn't be the loudest voice.

      • Still you'd think that with so many stars to choose from, we'd expect to get more then a few vaguely human-like alien species.

        I rather prefer the explanation that the radio-age doesn't last long enough - less then 200 years into it and we're already heading out of it. If there's a breakthrough or new physics around the corner, then it might be over completely if you can do things with entangled particles - and as you say, all the leaky intelligible stuff is being replaced with tight-beam radio and encryptio

    • by tobiah (308208)

      I find our current method of radio communication extremely inefficient. A signal much stronger than necessary for a decent antenna and signal processor is broadcast in all directions hoping to be heard by one or many devices. It's the electromagnetic equivalent of everyone shouting straight up in the air whether they are talking to their neighbor or the guys over the hill. A properly calibrated signal isn't heard much beyond the intended recipient. I expect that a much better form of communication will be d

  • I'm curious about the statement that some we are seeing around 500M y.o. Can someone tell me what that is based upon? I'm not up on the latest numbers but I thought the universe was to be approx 14B y.o. Does it take into account increasing expansion of space over that period? Does it assume we are at the furthest point away from those other galaxies (or are they saying it only extends 500M light years beyond us)? I understood all of it except that side comment. /noob question.
    • by vlm (69642)

      I'm curious about the statement that some we are seeing around 500M y.o. Can someone tell me what that is based upon?

      How'd they do it? Donno. Maybe just assumptions based on redshift, maybe something else.

      How would I do it? Wikipedia for metallicity. If it takes 14 billion years to nucleosynthesize this much carbon and stuff here in our galaxy, then if you see about 1/28th as much carbon and stuff over there then its probably only 1/28th the age or 500 Myr old.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallicity [wikipedia.org]

      I don't think these guys did a metallicity analysis, but someone else probably did at an extrapolated redshift...

    • by tobiah (308208)

      They're calculating this based on the redshift, which has a remarkable correlation with distance. Another method of estimating distance is by angular size. The assumption that redshift of distant objects indicates they are moving away at near light-speed, along with the assumption that matter cannot travel faster than light, are the basis for the Big Bang Theory. These images are a strong counter-argument to that theory, because mature galaxies should not have existed at that time.
      http://bigbangneverhappene [bigbangneverhappened.org]

      • These images are a strong counter-argument to that theory, because mature galaxies should not have existed at that time.

        Says who? Current theory places initial star formation at 400 million years after the Big Bang. Many of these initial stars were far more massive than any currently extant stars and had much shorter life-cycles, meaning galactic evolution happened quite quickly compared to the current pace.

  • Meh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by srussia (884021) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:17PM (#41454983)
    Mere shadows on the wall of a cavern [wikipedia.org].
  • If our universe is 14.5 Billion years old, and these galaxies we see are about 13 Billion light years away, shouldn't they be spread out much further apart? I would expect to only see a few galaxies in this picture.
    • by tobiah (308208)

      http://bigbangneverhappened.org/ [bigbangneverhappened.org]

  • by Tyler Durden (136036) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:25PM (#41455143)
    When I heard the learn'd astronomer;
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
    When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
    When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-
    room,
    How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
    Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

    -Walt Whitman
    • Well, that's great for Walt. Personally, I'd rather learn to fly an airplane than stare at a flock of seagulls.
  • Judging by the title of this article, I somehow expect to see links to the goatse.cx site...

  • We need Jack Handy's take on this!!

  • Check your ego.

    • Check your ego.

      Considering that there are more stars in the 'known' universe than there are grains of sand on the entire earth, that's a lot possibilities for planets with life on them.

      Now there's intelligent talk of the possibility of not just 4th and 5th dimensions occupying the same space as our 3rd dimension, but possibly an infinite amount of dimensions exist

      One things for sure. As much knowledge that the human race has discerned in just the past 100 years, we've barely scratched the surface in "Knowing all that

  • humbled by the profoundity of the universe
    • by Nyder (754090)

      humbled by the profoundity of the universe

      I see a big marijuana leaf myself...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Here is the original link to NASA http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/xdf.html .

    Is there a reason old Philly gets so many articles pushed up on Slashdot? Or is it the discovery channel that's gamed Slashdot?

  • by As_I_Please (471684) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:57PM (#41455683)

    NASA's page about the eXtreme Deep Field [nasa.gov] has a picture showing the amount of sky photographed compared to the size of the moon. It looks like all 5500 galaxies could be covered up by a grain of sand held out at arms length.

  • Ancient galaxy clusters and galaxy collisions! This is all strong evidence that the universe doesn't have a beginning.
    http://bigbangneverhappened.org/ [bigbangneverhappened.org]

    • There were far more collisions in the early universe than there are now, because there was the roughly the same amount of matter in a much smaller amount of space.

  • than an NFL referee. Glorious, glorious science.

  • astrology is so awesome.

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