Dots of Galaxies

Credit: ESO/UltraVISTA team. Acknowledgement: TERAPIX/CNRS/INSU/CASU

A staggering number of galaxies dot the latest and deepest view of the sky ever recorded in infrared by the European Southern Obseravtory’s VISTA Telescope.

Zoom into this image that contains more than 200,000 galaxies; each with billions of stars of its own. Astronomers thought they were looking at an unremarkable expanse of sky in the constellation Sextans, the Sextant. What they found was the equivalent of galactic treasure. The mission was to train the ESO’s VISTA telescope on the same patch of sky and then repeat many times. Scientists collected more than 6,000 separate exposures equaling about 55 hours of observing time.

Without zooming in, we see a few bright stars and sprinkling of dimmer ones. But as we zoom in, the galaxies become obvious with more and more coming into view as we zoom in closer. Yellow-tinged galaxies dominate the scene up to the highest zoom. At this level, notice the red objects scattered throughout the viewer. These are very remote galaxies. Their dim and ancient light comes from a time when the Universe was only about one billion years old. Scientists currently estimate the Universe is about 13.75 billion years old.

You can download the entire 253 MB deep view here.

VISTA’s sensitive infrared telescope is ideally suited to find ancient galaxies. As the Universe expands, light from the far-off galaxies is stretched and turns reddish, toward the infrared part of the light spectrum. Astronomers have been using VISTA at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert of Chile to observe remote parts of the Universe since 2009.

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