“Deep into that darkness peering,
long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal
ever dared to dream before.” –Edgar Allen Poe
When you look out into the darkness of a moonless, unpolluted night sky, you’ll of course notice that it’s full of stars, planets, and the occasional extended object.
But you’ll also notice that there are plenty of regions that — other than a few stars — don’t really have very much going on. One such region, visible in the southern skies pretty much year-round, is the constellation of Sextans.
A region of space where there isn’t very much going on — no bright stars, no planets, no close, extended galaxies or nebulae — is ideal for looking out, deeply, into the Universe.
You may remember, very famously, that the Hubble Space Telescope has done that a number of times, producing images such as the magnificent Hubble Ultra-Deep Field, an image which contains around 10,000 galaxies!
And that, well, that’s a lot. But is that the record?
If it was, it certainly isn’t anymore! Because that region of space I showed you, above, in the constellation of Sextans? The European Southern Observatory has — with their VISTA telescope — created the deepest wide-field image of all-time, containing over 200,000 galaxies!
The ESO has released a couple of videos, where you can see exactly where on the sky this region is, and zoom in a bit on some of these 200,000+ galaxies. In the video below, the full region of the survey — known as UltraVISTA, of the COSMOS field — is visible at about 0:31 into the clip.
Zooming even deeper into the field and panning around, the video below showcases some of the highlights of this survey.
Of course, they’ve also created an interactive, zoomable version of this survey. I’ve taken the liberty of creating for you a sample of what it’s like to zoom in, by a factor of 4, on a given region of the original, full wide-field survey.
To remind you, here’s the original image.
Now, let’s zoom in to the upper-left quarter of this field.
Now, let’s take another quarter (lower right) of that, for 1/16th of the original image.
And another quarter (lower right) of that, giving us just 1/64th of the original field-of-view…
And another quarter, bringing us to 1/256th the original…
And finally, down to the maximum resolution, just 1/1,024th of the original image!
And that’s what your Universe looks like! I’ll be away at MidSouthCon until next week; hope you have a great one until then!