Saturday, November 8, 2008

I Have Seen Forever, and It Is Full of Stars

A quick update, with a major tip o' the telescope to the Bad Astronomer. Apparently the European Southern Observatory has released the deepest ground-based look at the universe ever taken, mostly in the UV spectrum. It took several years and 55 hours of observation to get this image, so take a look:

Doesn't look like much initially, does it? Well, maybe you should check out the hi-res version (warning: 32 Mb file).

If that still doesn't seem like too much, let me say that there are only a few stars from the Milky Way in that image. One, which is quite interesting, actually appears as a funny sort of rainbow because it moved over the years it took to gather this image (yeah, physics and geometry of optics!) Almost all those points of light...they're all galaxies. It evokes Sagan: "billions and billions." And the other thing, this is a small swath of the sky. Everywhere we point our telescopes, we get more of the same. Also interesting, these galaxies are old...really old.

Head over to the Bad Astronomer for a breakdown of some of the more interesting things he picked out with his first glance.

This is the wonder and beauty of science. The Universe is more marvelous, enormous, and ancient than we had ever imagined.

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