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New instrument peers even deeper than Hubble

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Country Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Over 10 days in December 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope took 342 images of the same tiny patch of sky in the constellation Ursa Major. The resulting data set, the Hubble Deep Field, revolutionized the study of the early universe by revealing the profusion of galaxies in that faint and distant era when the first galaxies were forming.Now, in a demonstration of how astronomy has moved on in the past 20 years, a team of European astronomers has produced a similar deep field observation in just 27 hours and already revealed more than Hubble was able to do, as they report online today in Astronomy & Astrophysics. The new technology may lead to insights into galaxy evolution, says team leader Roland Bacon of the Astrophysics Research Center of Lyon in France.The team used an instrument called the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE), attached to one of the four telescopes that make up the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Cerro Paranal, Chile. Soon after MUSE was commissioned last year, a deep field observation was one of its first targets. “This was a major design driver for the instrument,” says Bacon, who is MUSE’s principal investigator. Because the original Hubble Deep Field can’t be observed from Chile, the team focused on a second data set compiled from 995 images, the Hubble Deep Field South (HDF-S), which Hubble collected during September and October 1998. Emailcenter_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) MUSE is an integral field spectrograph, a new type of instrument which, instead of just recording the intensity of light in each pixel of the image, provides a full spectrum for each pixel. (In MUSE’s case, 24 spectrographs yield spectra for every one of 400 million pixels.) “It’s a whole new class of instrument … a new way of probing the [distant] universe,” says astronomer Gerry Gilmore of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the observation.The extra data for each pixel allow astronomers to immediately calculate an object’s distance and composition and, for many galaxies, their internal motions. Certain very faint objects that only show up in a narrow range of wavelengths—usually swamped by other colors in a normal image—are easy to pick out. Previously, astronomers had to go back with other instruments to obtain spectra for each object one at a time.In MUSE’s observation of HDF-S, the team was able to easily measure the distances to 189 of the galaxies in the image—10 times more than had been measured before. MUSE also detected more than 20 very faint objects that Hubble did not pick up at all. “You have all this extra information for the whole image immediately. Even stuff you didn’t know was there,” Gilmore says.Bacon hopes in the future they will be able to use MUSE to directly image the cosmic web, the largest scale structure of the universe. Surveys have detected elements of the web—long filaments and sheets containing thousands of galaxies—separated by almost empty voids. In computer simulations, the cosmic web looks like foam. “We should be able, with MUSE’s exceptional sensitivity, to detect the faint glow of web filaments,” Bacon says. “It would be fantastic to really see it.”last_img read more