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(Credit: NASA; ESA; G Illingworth, D Magee and P Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R Bouwens, Leiden University; and the HUDF09 Team)
Ten years' worth of images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has created a photograph of the farthest we've ever seen into the universe.
It's a photo so spectacular that it needs a designation all to its own. Named the XDF, or eXtreme Deep Field, it represents 10 years' worth of photographs taken of a small patch of space at the centre of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which is located in the Fornax constellation.
Over the last decade, Hubble took over 2000 photos of the same patch of sky using the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the infrared Wide Field Camera 3, with a total exposure time of around 2 million seconds, or around 23 days. Putting the images together, which collected only faint light individually, revealed the XDF.
Small is relative, though. According to NASA, the image contains an estimated 5500 galaxies of all kinds, at all stages of a galaxy's life cycle, from newborn, all the way through to dying — a snapshot that shows the universe in microcosm. It reveals galaxies that are 13.2 billion years old — to put that in perspective, current knowledge estimates the universe to be around 13.75 billion years old. The youngest galaxy in the image was around just 450 million years after the Big Bang.
Just think about that for a while.