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Columbia Astronomers Analyze Latest Hubble Images

By Alissa Kaplan Michaels

A new image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals the deepest views of space to date.
Courtesy of NASA and STScI

A long-awaited FedEx box arrived Wednesday morning, March 9, at the American Museum of Natural History, much to the delight of the team of Columbia astronomers anxious to analyze its contents.

Inside the box from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore were the newest images from the Hubble Space Telescope of what is known as the Ultra Deep Field (UDF). The composite image contains no fewer than 10,000 galaxies, and reveals some of the farthest and youngest galaxies ever seen.

The dazzling photographs -- taken over a six-month period -- "are the best images of the sky we will have for probably the next 10 years," said Arlin Crotts, a Columbia University astronomy professor. Crotts heads a team of Columbia faculty, post-doctoral and graduate students, who, alongside astronomers from the museum and the State University of New York-Stony Brook, are in an "international race" with other experts to uncover new information about the latest images. The participating scientists in New York are working in full public view until Sunday, March 14, at the museum's Rose Center for Earth and Space, and are reporting their discoveries every few hours.

Dr. Arlin Crotts, Columbia professor of astronomy, stands before a newly released image from the Hubble Space Telescope.
credit: D. Finnin/AMNH

Against the backdrop of the new composite image, Crotts and the other scientists relayed its significance to the crowd in attendance, which included several dozen high school students. "This is the most detailed account of how light in the universe was produced over most of its history," Crotts said, adding that the universe is approximately 13 billion years old. Each team is concentrating on a specific aspect of the new UDF image. The Columbia team will focus on finding objects in the UDF that varied in brightness over the several months the photos were taken, ranging from black holes swallowing matter in the center of galaxies to more nearby objects such as dwarf stars in the Milky Way.

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Published: Mar 11, 2004
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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