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Hubble captures its largest near-infrared image to date

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope continues to make rare observations of the Universe. Recently, a technique known as “Drift And Shift” (DASH) has made it possible to increase the field of view of the telescopic camera and speed up its use. The researchers report that this is a stepping stone for astronomical observations over the next decade.

Since its launch more than 30 years ago, the Hubble Space Telescope has sparked a renaissance in studying the evolution of galaxies in the Universe over the past 10 billion years. Lamiya Mowla, lead author of the preprint study and fellow of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts and Science, said in a statement.

To map the star-forming regions of the Universe and learn how the oldest and most distant galaxies form, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured the largest near-infrared image ever taken. Because this is the longest (reddest) wavelength observed by Hubble, astronomers can see these types of galaxies (old and distant) better. An international team of researchers examined the image in a new high-resolution study called 3D-DASH.

This program extends Hubble’s legacy of large-scale imaging so we can begin to unlock the mysteries of galaxies beyond our own ‘ continues Mowla. A legacy that will make it possible to find rare objects and targets, which can then be observed by the James Webb Space Telescope, which arrived at its destination last December. In fact, the latter was built more for sensitive images, to capture fine details of a small area.

3D Drift And Shift: faster and wider recording

Thanks to the interactive online version of the 3D DASH image, professional and amateur astronomers can already explore the sky. Astronomers can scan the vast area of ​​sky covered to find rare objects and identify the largest galaxies, active black holes and rare molten galaxies – like those recorded last February. ” I’m interested in monster galaxies, which are the most massive in the universe and are formed by the merger of other galaxies. How did their structures evolve and what led to changes in their shape? says Mowla.

To obtain such images, the researchers used a new technique called “Drift And Shift” (DASH). This is effective to cover a large area by using the near-infrared channel of the Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3. In standard Hubble observations, guide stars are acquired with each new alignment (each acquisition takes about 10 minutes). The newly developed technology offers a wider field of view, which makes it possible to create an image eight times larger than usual.

In detail, the camera captures multiple shots, which are then combined into one. DASH is also capturing images faster than the usual technique: it captures eight photos per Hubble orbit instead of just one, achieving in 250 hours what would normally have taken 2,000 hours.

Zoomed panels on the 3D DASH depth map show the abundance of bright objects to study. © Mowla et al. 2022

3D-DASH offers researchers a comprehensive near-infrared survey of the entire COSMOS field, one of the richest data fields for extragalactic studies beyond the Milky Way. The technique covers a total area almost six times the size of the moon in the sky as seen from Earth. This is the first time such a large and sharp near-infrared image has been captured. What’s left to enjoy until the next generation of infrared space telescopes (including Nancy Grace Roman) are due to be launched over the next decade.

Source: arXiv

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