How a Single Image Taken in 1995 Revolutionized Astronomy

The Hubble Space Telescope has been one of the most important scientific instruments to have ever been deployed, and it has provided countless advancements to the fields of astronomy and cosmology. This fascinating video takes a look at one of the earliest and most important images the telescope took and how it continues to impact science even 25 years later.

Coming to you from Vox, this excellent video details the 1995 Hubble Space Telescope deep field observation and how it vastly changed our knowledge of the universe and even how astronomers work with data. The two things I have always loved about these images are the age of the light we are looking at and the sheer vastness contained in such a tiny spec (relatively speaking) of space. The image shows some galaxies that are over 12 billion years old, meaning they were around at a relatively young time for the universe, giving us amazing insight into its history. It also boggles my mind just how much is contained in each of those little blips of light. Entire galaxies with millions or billions of stars reside in those seemingly innocuous specs, reinforcing how the universe operates on scales of size that are truly beyond our own intuitive grasp. Check out the video above for the full story. 

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Deleted Account's picture

I sometimes give a public presentation on cosmology based upon this image. I title this talk, "The Greatest Photograph Ever Made." Hyperbolic, perhaps, but in some ways not. The thing that most amazes me about this image is not the little bright blips seen here and there in it (almost all of which are galaxies). It is the dark spaces in between the bright bits. The dark parts are not there because the exposure is too short to catch unseen faint objects. The dark parts are there because we are looking way, way back into the past to a time when stars had not yet turned on. We are basically looking at almost all the time there is. To look farther back you have to go to longer wavelengths, either in the infrared or radio. But even that only buys you very little. This image takes us well within the first billion years after the big bang, when the universe had cooled enough to be dark, but there had not been time for stars (and quasars) to light it back up. Mind blowing for sure.

David Pavlich's picture

Astronomy opens up a whole new realm in size and time. Prime example; the largest star measured is VY Canis Majoris. If it were in place of the Sun, it would extend to the orbit of Jupiter! I used to dabble in astrophotography and the fact that I have images of galaxies that are 60 million light years distant in my little library daunting. The light I captured started its journey to my camera 60 million years ago. FYI, a Light Year is about 5.5 TRILLION miles.

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

I've always loved Astronomy and this picture is one of the best ever!