Milky Way image reveals detail of a billion stars

Mar 29, 2012
Preview of the billion-star image. The full image contains 150 billion pixels, and the detail it contains is only revealed by the three zoom levels, which are centred on G305, a large and complex star-formation region. The innermost zoom covers a tiny fraction of the full image, but still contains more than ten thousand stars. Image: Mike Read (WFAU), UKIDSS/GPS and VVV.

(PhysOrg.com) -- More than one billion stars in the Milky Way can be seen together in detail for the first time in an image captured by astronomers.

Scientists created the colour picture by combining infra-red light images from telescopes in the northern and southern hemispheres. Large structures of the , such as gas and dust clouds where stars have formed and died, can be seen in the image.

The picture represents part of a 10-year project involving scientists from the UK, Europe and Chile, who gathered data from the two telescopes. The information has been processed and archived by teams at the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge, who have made it available to astronomers around the world for further studies.

Shot of star-forming area in Milky Way. Credit: Mike Read (WFAU), UKIDSS/GPS and VVV

Archived information from the project – known as the VISTA Data Flow System – is expected to enable scientists to carry out groundbreaking research in future years without the need to generate further data.

The image is being presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester today. It shows the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, which is often described as looking like two fried eggs back-to-back, with a flat disc in the middle. Earth is close to the edge of this disc, and the image shows a cross-section through the disc as seen from Earth's perspective.

It combines data from the UKIDSS/GPS sky survey taken by the UK Infrared in Hawaii with the VVV survey from the VISTA telescope in .

Astronomers used infra-red radiation instead of visible light to enable them to see through much of the dust in the Milky Way and record details of the centre of the galaxy.

Scientists have published the image online with an interactive zoom tool that reveals the detail within. Zooming into the image reveals a tiny fraction of the entire picture, which alone contains more than 10,000 stars.

Dr Nick Cross, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics and Astronomy, said: "This incredible image gives us a new perspective of our galaxy, and illustrates the far-reaching discoveries we can make from large sky surveys. Having data processed, archived and published by dedicated teams leaves other free to concentrate on using the data, and is a very cost-effective way to do astronomy."

Explore further: Astronomer confirms a new "Super-Earth" planet

More information: Full billion-star image: djer.roe.ac.uk/vsa/vvv/vvv_gps.tif (304 MB 39300x3750 pixels)

Provided by University of Edinburgh

5 /5 (1 vote)

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User comments : 8

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Graeme
not rated yet Mar 29, 2012
We also need to have an identifier for each of those stars. Has this project named them too?
vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2012
SUB: NECESSITY-DEMAND-INDEX
CURIOSITY-SUSTAIN- help science-cosmology base management infrastructure.
Take 108 count- 54 on either side- divide in regions-9000 LY at Milkyway Galactic Plane- This approach is adopted in my projections-cosmology vedas interlinks. apply square mode for zoom-in . this helps towards meaningful Cosmology Quest
http://archive.or...osmology
that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2012
We also need to have an identifier for each of those stars. Has this project named them too?

Why name a billion stars? That would be time consuming and pointless.

I agree that there should be identifiers for named stars, notable elements, and other pertinent overlays. I think google would be a great candidate for this task, similar to google maps and google sky.

As far as calling this a billion star map, it's false. It is no more a billion star map than what my eyes can see in the sky.

WHY? The FULL map has 1.47 Billion pixels. That means that every 1.5 pixels needs to have a star, assuming all the black areas are not included in the billion and a half pixels.

Also, if you look at the close up, less than half the pixels have stars, and many stars take up multiple pixels themselves.

The billion star claim is false, and the billion stars would not be distinguishable at that resolution even if the distribution allowed it to be arguably true.
Callippo
not rated yet Mar 29, 2012
WHY? The FULL map has 1.47 Billion pixels. That means that every 1.5 pixels needs to have a star

This is a good point, but many stars are simply too cold and dim for being observed in such a resolution. In this perspective the estimation of one billion stars still seems reasonable for me.
that_guy
not rated yet Mar 29, 2012
WHY? The FULL map has 1.47 Billion pixels. That means that every 1.5 pixels needs to have a star

This is a good point, but many stars are simply too cold and dim for being observed in such a resolution. In this perspective the estimation of one billion stars still seems reasonable for me.

I have no qualm with saying that this view has 1 billion stars (Probably more, there are 300 billion in the Milky Way), but in that regard it's no different than stitching a bunch of camera phone pics together and saying the same thing.

I think they actually meant that the photo included points of light representing 1 billion actual stars, which is boastfully remiss.

It probably actually contains somewhere between 25 million and 100 million stars, dependent upon whether the black areas are included in the picture's dimensions.
RJS
not rated yet Mar 30, 2012
Read much?
150 billion pixels...
jsdarkdestruction
not rated yet Mar 30, 2012
RJS has a good point. to be fair i didnt notice it till he/she pointed it out either.

"Preview of the billion-star image. The full image contains 150 billion pixels, and the detail it contains is only revealed by the three zoom levels, which are centred on G305, a large and complex star-formation region. The innermost zoom covers a tiny fraction of the full image, but still contains more than ten thousand stars"
that_guy
not rated yet Mar 30, 2012
Read much?
150 billion pixels...

At the end of the article it states
More information: Full billion-star image: http://djer.roe.ac /vvv_gps.tif (304 MB 39300x3750 pixels)


So apparently, they made a mistake in the dimensions then. Mybad, I did overlook the part where they said 150 billion pixels.

I found a totally awesome way they should use this: In the app at this link:
http://gizmodo.co...ce-table

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