Astronomers Create Largest Image of Milky Way –“46 Billion Pixels”

 

 

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Astronomers at the Ruhr-Universit├Ąt Bochum have compiled the largest astronomical image to date. The picture of the Milky Way contains 46 billion pixels and 268 individual images. In order to view it, researchers headed by Prof Dr Rolf Chini from the Chair of Astrophysics have provided an online tool. The image contains data gathered in astronomical observations over a period of five years.


For five years, the astronomers from Bochum have been monitoring our Galaxy in the search of objects with variable brightness. Those objects may, for example, include stars in front of which a planet is passing, or multiple systems where stars orbit each other and which obscure each other every now and then.Tthe team from the Chair of Astrophysics takes pictures of the southern sky night after night  using the telescopes at Bochum's university observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile. More than 50,000 new variable objects, which had hitherto not been recorded in databanks, have been discovered so far.

The area that the astronomers observe is so large that they have to subdivide it into 268 sections. They photograph each section in intervals of several days. By comparing the images, they are able to identify the variable objects. The team has assembled the individual images of the 268 sections into one comprehensive image. Following a calculation period of several weeks, they created a 194 Gigabyte file, into which images taken with different filters have been entered.

 

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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. An input window, which provides the position of the displayed image section, can be used to search for specific objects. If the user types in "Eta Carinae," shown above, for example, the tool moves to the respective star; the search term "M8" leads to the lagoon nebula.

View the Milky Way photo: http://gds.astro.rub.de

The Daily Galaxy via Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum

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