Nottingham astronomers have released images providing the broadest and deepest view ever obtained of our universe.
Experts at the University of Nottingham have published the spectacular new infrared pictures dotted with multicoloured stars and galaxies.
Because of the limited speed light travels at across space to earth, they actually show what the galaxies looked like billions of years ago because they are so far away.
The final data release from the Ultra-Deep Survey (UDS) maps an area four times the size of the full Moon to unprecedented depth.
More than 250,000 galaxies have been detected, including several hundred observed within the first billion years after the Big Bang.
Astronomers around the world will use the new images to study the early stages of galaxy formation and evolution.
Observing in the infrared is vital for studying the distant Universe, as ordinary starlight is “redshifted” to longer wavelengths due to the cosmological expansion of the Universe.
Because of the finite speed of light, the most distant galaxies are also observed very far back in time.
Professor Omar Almaini, Professor of Astrophysics in the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “With the UDS we can study distant galaxies in large numbers, and observe how they evolved at different stages in the history of the Universe. We see most of the galaxies in our image as they were billions of years before the Earth was formed.”
Scientists used the massive United Kingdom Infrared Telescope on Hawaii to observe the same patch of sky repeatedly, building up more than 1000 hours of exposure time.
The added depth from the images is expected to produce many new breakthroughs.
It was published as part of the National Astronomy Meeting, organised by the National Astronomical Society, being held on the university’s Jubilee Campus this week.