The image: NASA has released a striking image called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, which stares 13.2 billion years into the universe's mysterious past. (See the full image below.) Because the light from the galaxies in the composite image is "just arriving at Earth now," after traveling for billions and billions of light years, says NASA, we can consider the XDF a "time tunnel into the distant past." Using Hubble telescope snapshots taken over the last decade, and concentrating on a single patch of sky in the constellation Fornax, the composite image reveals thousands of colorful galaxies, ranging from bright orange bursts to spiraling Milky Way lookalikes. The XDF is the sequel to the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which collected light in a single patch of sky between 2003 and 2004 to give us what, at the time, was the farthest view out into space ever recorded.
The reaction: Behold the "deepest and most detailed view of the universe that exists on Earth," says Amy Rolph at the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's beautiful," Geza Gyuk, director of astronomy at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, tells National Geographic. "It's a tiny portion of the sky," but we still get an "impression of incredible richness." Take a look:
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