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Hubble captures images from 12 billion years ago

November 23, 1998
Web posted at: 2:06 p.m. EST
Hubble Deep Field South   

BALTIMORE (CNN) -- Peering down a 12 billion-light-year corridor, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured a glimpse of thousands of previously unseen galaxies at the far side of the universe, astronomers said Monday.

The new image, called the "Hubble Deep Field South," is a long-exposure view of a patch of sky in the constellation Tucana, which is visible only from the Southern Hemisphere. The picture shows galaxies more than 12 billion light years away.

Researchers captured the image in October by pointing Hubble at one part of the sky for 10 consecutive days. The long exposure time allowed the space telescope to detect the dim light coming from faint galaxies far on the other side of the universe.

This is the second "deep field" image taken with the Hubble. The first was "imaged" in late 1995, and focused on a region of the sky near the Big Dipper. The picture, which showed thousands of never-before-seen galaxies on the far side of the universe, proved a bonanza for astronomers interested in studying the origin and evolution of the universe.

Now, the Deep Field South image effectively doubles the number of distant galaxies available for study.

"Hubble's deep field views revealed a large, heretofore unseen fraction of the universe and opened it up to interpretation and understanding," said Robert Williams of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Key to understanding the value of a "deep field" picture is the notion that, as the Hubble Space Telescope images galaxies billions of light years away, it is not only peering across space, but also back in time.

The resulting images show what the galaxies looked like 12 billion years ago, shortly after the Big Bang, astronomers said.

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