Oct 24, 2012

Picture of the Day: 84 Million Stars in One Image




84 million stars one image milky way gigapixel mosaic Picture of the Day: 84 Million Stars in One Image


Using a gigantic nine-gigapixel image from the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, an international team of astronomers has created a catalogue of more than 84 million stars in the central parts of the Milky Way. This gigantic dataset contains more than ten times more stars than previous studies and is a major step forward for the understanding of our home galaxy. It is so large that, if printed with the resolution of a typical book, it would be 9 metres long and 7 metres tall (29.5 ft x 23 ft).

Most spiral galaxies, including our home galaxy the Milky Way, have a large concentration of ancient stars surrounding the centre that astronomers call the bulge. Understanding the formation and evolution of the Milky Way’s bulge is vital for understanding the galaxy as a whole.

The 108,200 x 81,500 pixel image can be downloaded here. Watch out though, it’s 24.6 GB! A more modest but still very large 15.5 MB file can be viewed here. The ESO has also released a zoomable image on their webiste which can be seen here.

The year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor.