Milky Way Photo Of 84 Million Stars Goes Viral: See The Stunning Image here [PHOTO & VIDEO]

By Staff Reporter on October 24, 2012 4:53 PM EDT

9-gigapixel image of Milky Way galaxy's central cluster of 84-million stars
9-gigapixel image of Milky Way galaxy's central cluster of 84-million stars (Photo: ESO/VVV Consortium)

Are you ready to feel really tiny and insignificant? Astronomers at Chile have just released a stunning 9-gigapixel image of the cosmos, cataloging about 84 million stars at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy. This particular image is now recognized as the single largest survey of the stars in our galaxy's core, ever.

From the data and images retrieved by the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), located at the European Southern Observator's Paranal Observatory in northern Chile, researchers claim that the new image displays 10 times more stars than previous studies. What's more, if the image were to be printed in the standard resolution of a typical book, then would measure 30 feet long and 23 feet tall.

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Conducted to aid astronomers in understanding the structure and evolution of our Milky Way, lead author Robert Saito of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, the Universidad de Valparaiso, and the Milky Way Millennium Nucleus, said that, "By observing in detail the myriads of stars surrounding the center of the Milky Way we can learn a lot more about the formation and evolution of not only our galaxy, but also spiral galaxies in general."

In particular, scientists are eager to gain a closer look into a concentration of ancient stars clustering around the core of spiral galaxies as clear looks into that region have been elusive. Co-author Dante Minniti of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile said, "Observations of the bulge of the Milky Way are very hard because it is obscured by dust. To peer into the heart of the galaxy, we need to observe in infrared light, which is less affected by the dust."

Armed with the awesome VISTA (not to be mistaken with the horrendous Windows operating system of the same name), the researchers were able to do exactly that. VISTA captured thousands of infrared images that were later combined to create an astronomical mosaic measuring 108,200 x 81,500 pixels.

In total, astronomers identified 173 million objects, 84 million of which were recognized as stars.

Astronomers at VISTA will be posting their complete findings online, allowing for their findings to be publicly available for other research teams all over the world to examine and apply. An early article of their results can be found in the August issue of "Astronomy & Astrophysics."

Check out the video footage of the image below. Make sure to watch it in HD!

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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