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VISTA Stares Deep into the Cosmos
Description: Deep Field Cosmological survey
Position (J2000): RA 10hr 00m 28.60s Dec. +02 12' 21.0"
Image Credit: ESO/UltraVISTA team. Acknowledgement: TERAPIX/CNRS/INSU/CASU
Release Date: March 21, 2012
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ABOUT THIS IMAGE:
ESO's VISTA telescope has created the widest deep view of the sky ever made using infrared light. This new picture of an unremarkable patch of sky comes from the UltraVISTA survey and reveals more than 200 000 galaxies. It forms just one part of a huge collection of fully processed images from all the VISTA surveys that is now being made available by ESO to astronomers worldwide. UltraVISTA is a treasure trove that is being used to study distant galaxies in the early Universe as well as for many other science projects.
ESO's VISTA telescope has been trained on the same patch of sky repeatedly to slowly accumulate the very dim light of the most distant galaxies. In total more than six thousand separate exposures with a total effective exposure time of 55 hours, taken through five different colored filters, have been combined to create this picture. This image from the UltraVISTA survey is the deepest infrared view of the sky of its size ever taken.
The VISTA telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile is the world's largest survey telescope and the most powerful infrared survey telescope in existence. Since it started work in 2009, most of its observing time has been devoted to public surveys, some covering large parts of the southern skies and some more focused on small areas. The UltraVISTA survey has been devoted to the COSMOS field, an apparently almost empty patch of sky which has already been extensively studied using other telescopes, including the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. UltraVISTA is the deepest of the six VISTA surveys by far and reveals the faintest objects.
At first glance the UltraVISTA image looks unremarkable, a few bright stars and a sprinkling of fainter ones. But in fact almost all of those fainter objects are not stars in the Milky Way, but very remote galaxies, each containing billions of stars. Enlarging the image to fill the screen, and zooming in reveals more and more of them, and the image records more than 200 000 galaxies in total.
The expansion of the Universe shifts light from distant objects towards longer wavelengths. For starlight coming from the most distant galaxies that we can observe, this means that most of the light falls in the infrared part of the spectrum when it gets to Earth. As a highly sensitive infrared telescope with a wide field of view, VISTA is uniquely powerful for spotting distant galaxies in the early Universe. By studying galaxies in red-shifted light at successively larger distances, astronomers can also trace how galaxies were built up and evolved over the history of the cosmos.
inspection of the picture reveals tens of thousands of previously unknown
reddish objects scattered between the more numerous cream-colored galaxies.
These are mostly very remote galaxies seen when the Universe was only
a small fraction of its present age. Early studies of the UltraVISTA images,
in combination with images from other telescopes, have revealed the presence
of many galaxies that are seen when the Universe was less than a billion
years old and a few are seen at even earlier times.