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Telescope Captures Record Breaking Image Of Galaxy 500 Million Light Years Away

First Posted: Jun 13, 2016 06:29 AM EDT

The Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), our planet's biggest single aperture optical telescope located in Spain's La Palma Island has recently captured the photo of a galaxy located 500 million light years away from Earth. The image now reportedly holds the record of being 10 times deeper than any other picture obtained without leaving the surface of our planet.

The unique feat was managed when researchers from GTC observed a faint halo of stars surrounding the galaxy UGC0180, a galaxy which is quite similar to our neighboring galaxy the Andromeda. The researching team of astronomers took the help of the OSIRIS camera on the GTC which could cover a substantial area of sky around the galaxy. The astronomers detected a faint halo comprising of four thousand million stars after 8.1 hours of exposure. Incidentally, the number of stars was similar to those seen in the Magellanic Clouds, the Milky Way's satellite galaxies.

The study was conducted by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) that wanted to calculate the limit of observation which could be accessed with the world's largest optical infrared telescope. The breakthrough image also gave further proof of the extremely low surface brightness of galaxy halos, something already predicted previously by theoretical models. However, due to the very reason of low brightness, the astronomers were skeptical about the possibility of capturing ultra deep images, even though they had the technology of bigger telescopes that could explore the surface brightness of even fainter galaxies.

After obtaining the images, the scientists found that not only had they exceeded previous surface brightness limit by 10 times but that it was possible to study the Universe, from distances where it was not thought to be achievable, by using the star counts conventional techniques. Furthermore, the new technique would be beneficial for investigating other faint celestial structures, whether they have stars or not. "After showing that the technique works," said Ignacio Trujillo, IAC researcher, "the object of future research is to extend the study to other types of galaxies, to see whether this way of understanding their formation, predicted by the standard model, is correct or not".

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