Hundreds of galaxies seen in a new 3-D view of the universe

New instrument helps researchers look back in time nearly 13 billion years


FAR, FAR AWAY  With the help of a new instrument, researchers measured distances to 181 galaxies, seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image, including a few that Hubble missed (highlighted).


The Hubble Space Telescope has some competition. A telescope in Chile has captured a three-dimensional view of a part of the sky previously imaged by Hubble. The image stretches across cosmic time, revealing modern day galaxies as well as ones seen as they existed when the universe was less than a billion years old. 

A single observation from a new high-tech camera on the telescope captured not only a picture but also the distances to 181 galaxies simultaneously, researchers report online February 26 in Astronomy & Astrophysics. Typically researchers need to measure the distance to each galaxy individually, a process that can take years. But with the help of the new instrument on the Very Large Telescope in Chile, Roland Bacon, an astrophysicist at the University of Lyon in France, and colleagues accomplished it in just over a day.

Bacon’s team turned the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer, or MUSE, on the Hubble Deep Field South, a region in the constellation Tucana imaged by Hubble in 1998. MUSE isn’t just a camera. Each pixel also captures a spectrum of the incoming light. The researchers determined the distances after measuring how much the expansion of the universe has shifted each galaxy’s light.

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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