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!
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.
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.
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!