It can be hard to comprehend how truly vast the universe is. A new picture from the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory offers a sense of the daunting perspective. Every grainy dot in this photo represents an entire galaxy.
The Herschel, named after legendary German-born British astronomer William Herschel, was active from 2009 to 2013. The largest infrared telescope ever launched, it had a mirror 11.4 feet in diameter (3.5 meters) according to the ESA.to collect long-wavelength radiation from several of the coldest and most distant objects in the universe,
Using its Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE), the Herschel took a picture of the North Galactic Pole. Using galactic coordinates with our solar system’s sun as the center, the ESA was looking beyond the Milky Way towards near the northern constellation of Coma Berenices, also known as Bernice’s Hair.
It’s a very wide range of space. But luckily the SPIRE, which was built with the help of NASA, specialized in mapping large areas of sky. It was able to capture the North Galactic Pole using three different filters simultaneously.
The result is a photo whose size is barely comprehensible. The Coma Cluster, one of the densest galaxy clusters know to humanity, sits inside the frame which means there at least a thousand different galaxies featured in the image.
The ESA is quite good at mapping out galaxies. Earlier this year, it released the largest map of the Milky Way ever created, featuring over 300 billion stars.
Previously published by: Popular Mechanics USA