(USATODAY.com) - NASA's image of 10,000 galaxies was a decade in the making.
The composite image is the result of 3,185 images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope with a total exposure of 592 hours, said Rogier Windhorst, an astronomy professor at Arizona State University who helped create the composite image.
It took the telescope 841 orbits, and the result shows how galaxies are formed.
Before 2009, Hubble captured images of visible and near infrared light that showed both nearby galaxies and very distant galaxies going back to within a few hundred million years of the big bang, according to a NASA.
Researchers lacked data on intermediate galaxies — about 5 billion to 10 billion light-years away — until they started studying ultraviolet light, which could be done only with a space-based telescope because Earth's atmosphere filters most ultraviolet light, according to NASA.
"The lack of information from ultraviolet light made studying galaxies ... like trying to understand the history of families without knowing about the grade-school children," said principal investigator Harry Teplitz of Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., in a statement. "The addition of the ultraviolet fills in this missing range."
Once "average" galaxies were included, researchers could see galaxies grew in size by "forming small collections of very hot stars," according to NASA.