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Researchers create enormous, nine-gigapixel image of the Milky Way

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Milky Way ESO
Milky Way ESO

Using images from the ESO's Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), researchers have stitched together a massive nine-gigapixel image of the Milky Way galaxy. The 108,200 x 81,500 image consists of nearly nine billion pixels, and was used to create a catalog of 84 million stars. Researchers claim that this is the largest image of its kind — the first to catalog the entire bulge of the Milky Way galaxy — and contains ten times more stars than any previous study. The catalog is a valuable tool for learning about "the formation and evolution of not only our galaxy, but also spiral galaxies in general," said lead author Roberto Saito. So far, the catalog has already been used to discover a large number of faint red dwarf stars, which are the most likely place to find Earth-like planets. The full, zoomable image is available to the public right here, but it runs in Flash Player so you may have trouble viewing it on most mobile devices, and it requires a little patience because the pixels take time to render.