It takes 9 billion pixels to capture 84 million stars in the Milky Way

ESO
VISTA gigapixel mosaic of the central parts of the Milky Way.

What you are looking at right now is just part of an enormous nine-gigapixel image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. This 108,200 by 81,500-pixel resolution image was stitched together using images from the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), and it features over 84 million stars.

According to The Verge, the researchers say that this 9-billion-pixel photo is the largest image ever created, and it catalogs 10 times more stars than previous studies did.

The image gives us just a glimpse at the Milky Way’s galactic center, which is roughly 26,000 light-years from our relative position on the Orion Arm. The galactic center or bulge is full of dust, gas, and the largest concentration of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

ESO
Zoom. Enhance. Enhance. Zoom. Enhance. There's our unsub. Er, star. Whatever.

The researchers plan to use the image to help them learn more about the formation and evolution of all spiral galaxies in the universe. The catalog is also being used to catalog red dwarf stars, which can in turn help scientists identify prime search areas for exoplanets.

Meanwhile, you can check out a full-size, zoomable version of the image here.

Although the image is the largest yet with 9 billion digital pixels, it’s still just a tiny photo compared to the entire universe. Just to show you how small of a sample this is, the image covers 315 square degrees of the sky, or a bit less than 1 percent of Earth’s entire sky.

Do you feel insignificant yet?

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