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Journal Articles Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A Year : 2019

The missing light of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field

Alejandro Borlaff
  • Function : Author
Ignacio Trujillo
  • Function : Author
Javier Román
  • Function : Author
John E. Beckman
  • Function : Author
M. Carmen Eliche-Moral
  • Function : Author
Raúl Infante-Sáinz
  • Function : Author
Alejandro Lumbreras-Calle
  • Function : Author
Carlos Gómez-Guijarro
  • Function : Author
María Cebrián
  • Function : Author
Antonio Dorta
  • Function : Author
Nicolás Cardiel
  • Function : Author
Cristina Martínez-Lombilla
  • Function : Author


Context. The Hubble Ultra Deep field (HUDF) is the deepest region ever observed with the Hubble Space Telescope. With the main objective of unveiling the nature of galaxies up to z ∼ 7 - 8, the observing and reduction strategy have focused on the properties of small and unresolved objects, rather than the outskirts of the largest objects, which are usually over-subtracted.
Aims: We aim to create a new set of WFC3 IR mosaics of the HUDF using novel techniques to preserve the properties of the low surface brightness regions.
Methods: We created ABYSS: a pipeline that optimises the estimate and modelling of low-level systematic effects to obtain a robust background subtraction. We have improved four key points in the reduction: 1) creation of new absolute sky flat fields, 2) extended persistence models, 3) dedicated sky background subtraction and 4) robust co-adding.
Results: The new mosaics successfully recover the low surface brightness structure removed on the previous HUDF published reductions. The amount of light recovered with a mean surface brightness dimmer than μ¯ = 26 mag arcsec-2 is equivalent to a m = 19 mag source when compared to the XDF and a m = 20 mag compared to the HUDF12.
Conclusions: We present a set of techniques to reduce ultra-deep images (μ > 32.5 mag arcsec-2, 3σ in 10 × 10 arcsec boxes), that successfully allow us to detect the low surface brightness structure of extended sources on ultra deep surveys. The developed procedures are applicable to HST, JWST, EUCLID and many other space and ground-based observatories.

The final ABYSS WFC3 IR HUDF mosaics are only available at and at the CDS via anonymous ftp to ( or via

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Dates and versions

insu-03711440 , version 1 (01-07-2022)



Alejandro Borlaff, Ignacio Trujillo, Javier Román, John E. Beckman, M. Carmen Eliche-Moral, et al.. The missing light of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, 2019, 621, ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/201834312⟩. ⟨insu-03711440⟩
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