Survey of Milky Way yields huge 50,000 x 25,000-pixel zoomable image
A team of astronomers has completed a massive survey of the Milky Way’s central bulge, which captured the light fingerprint of over 250 million stars, and could help provide new insights into our galaxy’s history and creation. A massive 50,000 x 25,000-pixel zoomable color-composite view of the star field was also created from the data, presenting an opportunity for non-scientists to experience the majesty of our galaxy in exquisite detail.
The survey was conducted using the Dark Energy Matter Camera (DECam) mounted on the Victor M. Blanco 4-m telescope located at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The central region of the Milky Way was observed in incredible detail in the near-ultraviolet, optical and near-infrared wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Over 7,000 exposures were captured over the course of the survey, which equated to a grand total of roughly 450,000 individual CCD images, or a staggering 3.5-trillion pixels.
With the data set complete, the astronomers proceeded to analyze the chemical compositions of 70,000 the 250 million stars captured in the survey, which were spread over a region of the night sky that spanned roughly 1,000 times the size of the full Moon.
The stars close to the galactic center were found to share a similar composition, suggesting that they formed at roughly the same time, and from the same materials.
“Many other spiral galaxies look like the Milky Way and have similar bulges, so if we can understand how the Milky Way formed its bulge then we’ll have a good idea of how the other galaxies did too,” commented study co-leader Christian Johnson of the Space Telescope Science Institute.
The main part of the survey has been made available as a gargantuan, 50,000 x 25,0000-pixel zoomable color-composite image, that lets members of the public explore the spectacular star field at the heart of the Milky Way to their hearts’ content.