An out-of-this-world composite photo of Hubble Space Telescope shots peers back to a time a "mere" 450 million years after the Big Bang. Dubbed the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photograph—made up of 2,000 snaps taken by the Hubble over 10 years—reveals nearly 5,500 galaxies, some of them dating back 13.2 billion years, whose images only recently reached Hubble. The XDF provides astronomers a "time tunnel"-like glimpse of cosmic history, reports CNET.
"The XDF is the deepest image of the sky ever obtained, and reveals the faintest and most distant galaxies ever seen," explains Garth Illingworth, a Hubble researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz. "XDF allows us to explore further back in time than ever before." We see "a time when the first galaxies were forming," he adds. "The metals, all the elements that make our bodies, make the Earth and basically our whole solar system were starting to be built up. It was a time when the universe was being transformed." Hubble's far more powerful successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is scheduled for launch in 2018, and is expected to reach back even further.