1 Picture, 9,000 Megapixels, 84 Million Stars

The VISTA telescope in northern Chile had compiled the largest catalog of the stars swirling around the core of our galaxy.

eso1242a-3000.jpg

ESO

That right there? That's the center of our galaxy, as seen by the powerful Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) instrument in northern Chile, and this particular image is the largest catalog of the stars there to date, some 84 million of them (10 times more than earlier catalogs).

Well, not exactly. I can't load the full, detailed image onto The Atlantic's servers. What you see above is just a thumbnail (3000 pixels wide if you click through). The original image, navigable and zoomable here, covers 108,500 by 81,500 pixels (just under nine billion pixels or nine gigapixels). If you were to print it out at normal book-level resolution, it would be something like 30 feet wide and 23 feet tall. Really the only way to see it is on a computer.

The image contains both visible and infrared light, which allows astronomers to documents stars normally obstructed by gas clouds. In the video below you can see a bit about how the two kinds of light combine to create the final image.

All of the data that went into the image are being contributed to the public domain through the observatory's archive so that in the months ahead astronomers can pore over them, searching for clues as the formation, evolution, and structure of our galaxy, and looking for stars that might be good candidates for more exoplanet discoveries.

Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In