Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have captured the most comprehensive picture ever assembled of the evolving universe — and one of the most colourful.

The study, called the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UVUDF) project, provides the missing link in star formation, researchers said.

Scientists combined the full range of colours available to Hubble, stretching all the way from ultraviolet to near-infrared light.

The resulting image — made from 841 orbits of telescope viewing time — contains approximately 10,000 galaxies, extending back in time to within a few hundred million years of the big bang.

Studying the ultraviolet images of galaxies in this intermediate time period enables astronomers to understand how galaxies like our Milky Way grew in size from small collections of very hot stars.

Because Earth’s atmosphere filters most ultraviolet light, this work can only be accomplished with a space-based telescope.

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