Hubble's Largest Ever Infrared Image Is A Captivating Display Of Galaxies 10 Billion Years Old

hubble galaxies
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope continues to capture images ahead of the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The 3D-Dash program is a high resolution survey that will allow researchers to locate rare objects and targets for JWST once it becomes fully operational.

Hubble began its journey collecting imagery of distant galaxies more than 30 years ago. The images and data it has collected has led to many new discoveries and unveiled parts of the universe never seen before. Its 3D-Dash program has now provided researchers with a complete near-infrared survey of the entire COSMOS field.

"The 3D-Dash program extends Hubble's legacy in wide-area imaging so we can begin to unravel the mysteries of the galaxies beyond our own," stated Lamiya Mowla, Dunlap Fellow at the Faculty of Arts & Science's Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study.

Mowla also points out that since it launched, Hubble has provided a view of how galaxies have changed in the last 10 billion years of the universe.

Image Credit: Lamiya Mowla

Until now, being able to see such a vast area of the sky required viewing from the ground and was limited in scope due to poor resolution, which in turn also limited what could be seen. The 3D-Dash program will enable researchers to identify unique phenomena such as the Universe's most massive galaxies, black holes, and galaxies which are on the verge of colliding with one another.

"I am curious about giant galaxies, which are the most massive ones in the Universe formed by the mergers of other galaxies. How did their structures grow, and what drove the changes in their form," Mowla explained. She added that the difficulty in being able to study these rare events was what led to the design of this large survey.

In order to capture such an expansive view, the researchers used a new technique with Hubble known as Drift And SHift (DASH). The technique creates an image eight times larger than the standard field of view of Hubble by capturing multiple shots that are stitched together into a mosaic.

galaxies hubble
Image Credit: Lamiya Mowla

DASH also allows for faster imaging than the normal technique, being able to capture eight images per Hubble's orbit instead of just one. This allows Hubble to achieve in 250 hours what used to take 2,000 hours.

Even though JWST will be able to capture higher resolution images than Hubble, it will likely not beat out Hubble in terms of total area captured. 3D-Dash encompasses an area nearly six times the size of the moon in the sky as seen from Earth. JWST was developed for sensitive, up-close images in order to capture fine detail of a small area and is on track to become fully operational early next week.

"3D-DASH adds a new layer of unique observations in the COSMOS field and is also a steppingstone to the space surveys of the next decade," remarked Ivelina Momcheva, head of data science at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and principal investigator of the study. "It gives us a sneak peek of future scientific discoveries and allows us to develop new techniques to analyze these large datasets."

Top Image Credit: NASA/European Space Agency