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New Hubble telescope image shows monster galaxies and other rare objects

By Daniel Otis

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — A new Hubble Space Telescope image shows some of the brightest and rarest objects in the universe, including monster galaxies.

Known as “3D-DASH,” it is also the largest near-infrared image ever taken by Hubble, and will help astronomers learn more about some of the earliest and most distant galaxies in the universe.

Lamiya Mowla is a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Toronto’s astronomy and astrophysics department, and lead author of the international team of scientists that produced the 3D-DASH study.

“Since its launch more than 30 years ago, the Hubble Space Telescope has led a renaissance in the study of how galaxies have changed in the last 10-billion years of the universe,” Mowla said in a news release. “The 3D-DASH program extends Hubble’s legacy in wide-area imaging so we can begin to unravel the mysteries of the galaxies beyond our own.”

The 3D-DASH image is actually a mosaic of more than 1,200 individual Hubble snapshots that were digitally stitched together using a technique called Drift and SHift (DASH), which is similar to how panoramas and photo spheres are created on a smartphone. The final product is eight times larger than Hubble’s normal field of vision and uses the near-infrared wavelength, which is just past what is visible to the human eye, allowing astronomers to observe the earliest galaxies which are farthest away.

Pinpointing objects like these previously relied on ground-based telescopes, which can see far fewer details than ones in space. The high-resolution 3D-DASH survey will be used to find rare and unique targets for further observation with the recently-launched James Webb Space Telescope, such as highly active black holes and colliding galaxies.

“I am curious about monster galaxies, which are the most massive ones in the universe formed by the mergers of other galaxies,” said Mowla, who began working on the 3D-DASH project in 2015 as a grad student. “It was difficult to study these extremely rare events using existing images, which is what motivated the design of this large survey.”

As seen from earth, the 3D-DASH image would cover an area of sky roughly six times bigger than the moon. It is expected to be the largest near-infrared image available to astronomers until the launch of next-generation telescopes like the European Space Agency’s Euclid and NASA’s Roman Space Telescope. The new James Webb telescope is designed to capture fine details in smaller areas, and is unlikely to produce this kind of wide-angle view.

The new Hubble image and an accompanying study were released earlier this month ahead of publication in The Astrophysics Journal.

The Hubble Space Telescope has provided humanity with unprecedented glimpses of the cosmos since its launch in 1990. Operated by NASA in cooperation with the European Space Agency, Hubble is expected to stay in service until the 2030s.

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Sonja Puzic

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

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