Seeing Farther: Hubble Ultra Deep Field
Peering through slices of time and space
Hubble Ultra Deep Field Interactive
This extremely deep exposure captures a small portion of the universe across time and space, revealing a variety of galaxies.
As we look out into space, we look back in time. This is a small, 5-billion-light-year “slice” of the nearby universe.
This slice covers a larger portion of the distant universe, revealing more galaxies.
Now only the most distant galaxies appear, looking as they did more than 9.6 billion years ago.
Additional ultraviolet and near-infrared images help refine distances to discover even younger, farther galaxies.
A Story Of Seeing Farther: Hubble Ultra Deep Field
Dividing the universe into slices of time shows the evolution of galaxies.
By staring at the same area of the sky for extended periods, space-based telescopes have the ability to capture faint light that left distant objects in the universe billions of years ago—but is only now arriving at Earth. Known as deep fields, these four-dimensional observations allow researchers to study the makeup of the early universe and learn how galaxies change over time. Deep fields are selected because they avoid the densely populated disk of the Milky Way, ensuring the dust, stars, and other objects in our own galaxy do not obscure the view.
The historic Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) is the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever taken. It is a comprehensive snapshot across time and space. It looks from the present time back to the universe’s early days, revealing a wide range of galaxies of various sizes, shapes, and colors. The deep image includes the first galaxies to emerge from the so-called "dark ages," the period shortly after the big bang when the first stars reheated the cold, dark universe.
By carefully analyzing the Hubble data, scientists made an estimate of the distances to thousands of galaxies. They then divided the galaxies into time periods, showing “slices” across time and space. These slices chronicle the evolution of galaxies, from the majestic spiral and elliptical galaxies we see today back to the young, small, and strangely shaped galaxies, which date to a period when the universe was more chaotic. When astronomers later added ultraviolet and near-infrared images to the field, they were able to improve distance estimates to known galaxies and discover even younger, fainter galaxies.
Quick Facts: Hubble Ultra Deep Field
Also known as:
Type of object:
Field of view is less than 1% of the area covered by the full Moon
Location in the sky:
Did you know:
In ground-based photographs, the patch of sky in which the galaxies reside appears so empty that only a handful of stars within the Milky Way galaxy can be seen.
Explore More About Seeing Farther
Find out more with these additional resources from NASA’s Universe of Learning
Credits: Hubble Ultra Deep Field
2004 HUDF Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith, M. Stiavelli, A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Thompson (University of Arizona), and the STScI HUDF Team
Image slices: NASA, ESA, F. Summers, Z. Levay, L. Frattare, B. Mobasher, A. Koekemoer and the HUDF Team (STScI)
Color multi-wavelength (infrared, near-infrared, visible, ultraviolet) Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 from the Hubble Space Telescope: NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC, Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)
- 2004 HUDF Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith, M. Stiavelli, A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Thompson (University of Arizona), and the STScI HUDF Team
- 2009 HUDF Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, R. Bouwens (University of California, Santa Cruz), and the HUDF09 Team
- 2012 HUDF Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Ellis (Caltech), R. McLure, J. Dunlop (University of Edinburgh), B. Robertson (University of Arizona), A. Koekemoer (STScI), and the HUDF12 Team
- 2012 XDF Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team
- 2014 HUDF/UV-UDF Credit: NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz, M. Rafelski (IPAC, Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)
Subject-matter expertise provided by Dr. Anton Koekemoer
Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach