Stunning Image Of The Milky Way Galaxy Shows A Billion Stars!

Stunning is the word, if you can at all describe it! Vista Data Flow System has just mapped the Milky Way Galaxy and has produced a spectacular image of the galactic disk, showing nearly a billion stars. Such is the detail of each region of the mapped galaxy that it is impossible to grasp even when zoomed in. The entire image has been built up from thousands of individual images taken over a decade. The detailing is amazing and it’s not only for the pleasure of the visual organ – the scientific data is also enormous!

The image of a part of the galaxy. (Courtesy: Mike Read and Nick Cross)

Says Dr. Nick Cross from the University of Edinburgh, one of the people involved in the study

There are about one billion stars in there – this is more than has been in any other image produced by surveys. When it was first produced, I played with it for hours; it’s just stunning.

Even hard-nosed scientists, bombarded year-after-year with raw numerical data, have a little child lurking in their somewhere.

Online play…

The data used in building this image has been taken from UKIDSS/GPS sky survey acquired by the UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii and from the Vista telescope in Chile.

A closeup of the galaxy, near the galactic center. Obtained using the online software. (Courtesy: Mike Read and Nick Cross)

Just to help everyone out, there is an online tool, created by Dr Cross and collaborators, which can be used to zoom into smaller and smaller regions of the image. The image itself is a long extended disc of the galaxy and too big to comprehend it at one go!

Do play around with the software. Zoom in and at each level, wait a bit – it takes a few seconds to load fully. It’s well worth the wait! I recommend that you watch it full-screen. Oh, and you might need to bump up the brightness of your monitor a bit.

Scientists are hoping to use this technique for future studies, for mapping starburst galaxies and regions around compact objects. But no matter what, imagination and amazement shall never be lost!

Published by

Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.

  • Brad

    Is there a link to the tool? Maybe I’m missing it. Thanks

    • Debjyoti Bardhan

      No you didn’t miss it. I’m sorry, I messed up a bit. The link has been put in the article now. Do check.
      Apologies. And thanks for pointing it out.

  • Pingback: Galaxies « Abraham Lincoln()