Added by Erik West on October 24, 2012
An international team of astronomers released a never before seen image of 84 million stars, part of a 173 million object image, of our galaxy, the Milky Way, captured over a five year period.
“If printed, the image would be about nine meters wide (29ft) and seven meters tall (23ft),” said an analyst.
Astronomers created the image, which contains more than ten times more start than previous studies, used the VISTA telescope – located in Chile – to acquire the data used to create it. The image was created by Ignacio Toledo at the ALMA OSF, the operational base of the VISTA telescope, also located in Chile and
“One pixel in the nine gigapixel image represents about 0.6 arcseconds – equivalent to viewing a human hair about 17m (55ft) away from the observer,” added the analyst.
“Each star occupies a particular spot in this diagram at any moment during its lifetime. Where it falls depends on how bright it is and how hot it is. Since the new data gives us a snapshot of all the stars in one go, we can now make a census of all the stars in this part of the Milky Way,” explains Dante Minniti, the study’s coauthor.
According to the ESO press release, the entire image covers about 1% of the entire sky (315 square degrees). The image contains 173 million objects, 84 million of which are confirmed stars. The data for the 108 200 by 81 500 pixel image is based on a catalog of the positions of each star, along with its brightness using three different infrared filters.
“By observing in detail the myriads of stars surrounding the centre of the Milky Way we can learn a lot more about the formation and evolution of not only our galaxy, but also spiral galaxies in general,” said Roberto Saito, the study’s lead author.
“This is one of the biggest astronomical images ever produced. The team has now used these data to compile the largest catalogue of the central concentration of stars in the Milky Way ever created,” said the ESO press release.
For more information: