Astronomers have compiled the largest image of the Milky Way in human history, made up of a staggering 46 billion pixels.
The collage, which includes photographs of 268 individual sections of the galaxy, was created by researchers at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.
The image can be viewed online (at gds.astro.rub.de ), and it’s so incredibly massive that its file size amounts to 194 gigabytes.
It actually took two weeks for scientists to calculate the dimensions of this photograph. Given its astonishing proportions, a special feature had to be designed, in order to give people the possibility to scroll and take in the beauty of the night sky in its entirety.
“Using the online tool, any interested person can view the complete ribbon of the Milky Way at a glance, or zoom in and inspect specific areas”, explained the astronomers.
The actual purpose of the study wasn’t to create a ground-breaking, bigger-than-ever-before image of space. In fact, what researchers aimed to do was to analyze variable phenomena, which refer to the way stars oscillate in brightness across time, as they are eclipsed by other bodies passing in front of them.
These modifications allow researchers to identify planets or other stars located nearby, given the fact that the orbit of these objects has an impact on the way stars twinkle and fade.
With that objective in mind, the German team of astronomers, led by Dr. Rolf Chini, took numerous photographs of the sky, by employing the university’s observatory in Atacama Desert, Chile.
This way, they were able to compare them and analyze star variations more precisely, so that they could identify celestial bodies whose brightness as seen from Earth undergoes fluctuations.
As a result, around 50,000 new objects were identified by conducting this unbelievably extensive research, across a period of 5 years. The preliminary findings were initially presented in a scientific paper on October 4, 2012, in the journal Astronomical Notes.
Of every individual section in the sky which was scanned for days, thousands of images were taken, and a total of 268 sections had to be surveyed, in order to capture the immensity of the Milky Way.
What resulted was this mind-blowingly detailed panorama of our galaxy, which can now be easily accessed by every Internet user.
What is even more remarkable is that the image isn’t entirely static, but instead it functions more like an online interactive map. There is even a functionality that allows amateur astronomers to search for their favorite stars, nebulae and planets, so that they can take a closer look at them.
Image Source: Ruhr University Bochum