Largest Milky Way Photo Depicts 84 Million Stars

Ever tried to count the stars above your head? So have researchers in Chile who took the largest photo of the Milky Way. The stunning 9 giga-pixel Milky Way photo depicts 84 million stars!

Remember when as a child you’d try to count the stars in the night sky? Always it’d be a thrilling experience in the beginning, until several dozen later you’d give up crushed by the immensity of the task. Researchers in Chile gazed at the sky too, looking to count the stars, but through the “eyes” of a powerful observatory. The result is the largest photo of the Milky Way galaxy, showing 84 million stars.

The largest Milky Way photo was taken by the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), a tool used by researchers with the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. The amazing photo of the Milky Way has 10 times more stars than any other image before.

The 9 giga-pixel picture of the Milky Way is zoomable and if it would ever be printed it would be 30 feet long by 23 feet tall, or 9 by 7 meters. The picture of the 84 million stars looks at the one of the most challenging areas in our galaxy, the cluster of ancient stars that thrive around the core of spiral galaxies.

“Observations of the bulge of the Milky Way are very hard because it is obscured by dust” said Dante Minniti, researcher with Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile and part of the team that took the stunning photo of the Milky Way. “To peer into the heart of the galaxy, we need to observe in infrared light, which is less affected by the dust” Minniti added.

The spectacular photo of the Milky Way isn’t just for aesthetic purposes. It should give researchers a better understanding of the stars that live at the core of spiral galaxies. “By observing in detail the myriads of stars surrounding the center of the Milky Way we can learn a lot more about the information and evolution of not only our galaxy, but also spiral galaxies in general” said Roberto Saito, lead author and expert with The Milky Way Millennium Nucleus.

Researchers managed to identify 84 million stars in the stunning photo of the Milky Way. “Each star occupies a particular spot in this diagram at any moment during its lifetime” explained Minniti. “Where it falls depends on how bright it is and how hot it is” but the new data will help experts “make a census of all the stars in this part of the Milky Way”.

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