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Seeing Farther: Hubble Ultra Deep Field

Peering through slices of time and space Full Story Below

Vast expanse of galaxies with three areas highlighted Vast expanse of galaxies with three areas highlighted
Same field showing only a quarter of the galaxies Same field showing only a quarter of the galaxies
Same field showing a diversity of many redder galaxies Same field showing a diversity of many redder galaxies
Same field with many tiny, reddish galaxies Same field with many tiny, reddish galaxies
Same field of galaxies, more crowded and colorful Same field of galaxies, more crowded and colorful
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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.

Snapshot across time
0-5 Billion Years
5-9.6 Billion Years
9.6-13.2 Billion Years
Snapshot with UV & IR

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: HUDF

Type of object: Deep field

Size: Field of view is less than 1% of the area covered by the full Moon

Location in the sky: Fornax Constellation

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

ViewSpace Videos
Learn more about deep fields and what they reveal
NASA’s Universe of Learning
Read about the deepest X-ray image ever obtained
AstroPix
Images of deep fields and surveys across the electromagnetic spectrum
Astroviz
Fly through the most distant visible-light view of the universe

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)

Content development by Dr. Quyen Hart, Ann Jenkins, Yesenia Perez

Design by Elizabeth Wheatley

Web development by Isaar Sadr, Lara Wilkinson

Subject-matter expertise provided by Dr. Anton Koekemoer