The space, last frontier. If you have ever wanted to see our galaxy with the highest definition possible, you are in luck. A new state-of-the-art camera installed in Chile has created a spectacular image of the Milky Way, thus revealing more than three billion celestial objects.
Weighing in at (attention) 10 terabytes, the gigantic image covers a space equivalent to 13,000 times the surface of the Moon, showing a myriad of elements, such as nebulae, stars and dark clouds of dust and gas. It was created by blending a total of 21,400 individual photographs.
A feat of spatial mapping
The image, which can be seen online through this link (with lower resolution), was captured by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) of the Víctor M Telescope. Target (4 meters high) at the NOIRLab of the National Science Foundation (NSF), located at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (Chile).
“This is quite a technical feat. Imagine a group photo of over three billion people and each individual being recognizable”said Debra Fischer, director of the NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences. Astronomers will study this detailed portrait of more than three billion stars in the Milky Way for decades”.
This achievement has been achieved by observing at near-infrared wavelengths, which allows astronomers to see the smallest or most distant stars, as well as being able to see through the countless dust clouds in outer space.
“We simply targeted a region with an extraordinarily high density of stars and were careful to identify sources that appear almost on top of each other”, explains Andrew Saydjari, a researcher at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian and lead author of the article published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement.
In addition, the image obtained is being combined with other telescopes dedicated to mapping space, such as PanSTARRS 1, to obtain a 360º panoramic view of the Milky Way disk. “With this new survey we can map the three-dimensional structure of the stars and dust of the Milky Way in unprecedented detail”, says Edward Schlafly, a researcher at the Space Telescope Science Institute and co-author of the paper.