Astronomers unveil an amazing, interactive, 360-degree panoramic view of the entire night sky

Sep 14, 2009
This magnificent 360-degree panoramic image, covering the entire southern and northern celestial sphere, reveals the cosmic landscape that surrounds our tiny blue planet. This gorgeous starscape serves as the first of three extremely high-resolution images featured in the GigaGalaxy Zoom project, launched by ESO within the framework of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009). The plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, which we see edge-on from our perspective on Earth, cuts a luminous swath across the image. The projection used in GigaGalaxy Zoom place the viewer in front of our Galaxy with the Galactic Plane running horizontally through the image — almost as if we were looking at the Milky Way from the outside. From this vantage point, the general components of our spiral galaxy come clearly into view, including its disc, marbled with both dark and glowing nebulae, which harbours bright, young stars, as well as the Galaxy’s central bulge and its satellite galaxies. As filming extended over several months, objects from the Solar System came and went through the star fields, with bright planets such as Venus and Jupiter. For copyright reasons, we cannot provide here the full 800-million-pixel original image. The high resolution image provided here contains 18 million pixels. Credit: ESO

(PhysOrg.com) -- The first of three images of ESO's GigaGalaxy Zoom project — a new magnificent 800-million-pixel panorama of the entire sky as seen from ESO's observing sites in Chile — has just been released online. The project allows stargazers to explore and experience the Universe as it is seen with the unaided eye from the darkest and best viewing locations in the world.

This 360-degree panoramic image, covering the entire celestial sphere, reveals the cosmic landscape that surrounds our tiny blue planet. This gorgeous starscape serves as the first of three extremely high-resolution images featured in the GigaGalaxy Zoom project, launched by ESO within the framework of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009).

GigaGalaxy Zoom features a web tool that allows users to take a breathtaking dive into our Milky Way. With this tool users can learn more about many different and exciting objects in the image, such as multicoloured nebulae and exploding stars, just by clicking on them. In this way, the project seeks to link the sky we can all see with the deep, "hidden" cosmos that astronomers study on a daily basis. The wonderful quality of the images is a testament to the splendour of the night sky at ESO's sites in Chile, which are the most productive astronomical observatories in the world.

The plane of our , which we see edge-on from our perspective on Earth, cuts a luminous swath across the image. The projection used in GigaGalaxy Zoom place the viewer in front of our Galaxy with the Galactic Plane running horizontally through the image — almost as if we were looking at the Milky Way from the outside. From this vantage point, the general components of our come clearly into view, including its disc, marbled with both dark and glowing nebulae, which harbours bright, young stars, as well as the Galaxy's central bulge and its satellite galaxies.

The painstaking production of this image came about as a collaboration between ESO, the renowned French writer and astrophotographer Serge Brunier and his fellow Frenchman Frédéric Tapissier. Brunier spent several weeks during the period between August 2008 and February 2009 capturing the sky, mostly from ESO observatories at La Silla and Paranal in Chile. In order to cover the full Milky Way, Brunier also made a week-long trip to La Palma, one of the Canary Islands, to photograph the northern skies. Once the raw photographs were in hand, image processing by Tapissier and ESO experts helped to convey accurately the night sky as our eyes behold it. The resulting image is composed of almost 300 fields each individually captured by Brunier four times, adding up to nearly 1200 photos that encompass the entire night sky.

"I wanted to show a sky that everyone can relate to — with its constellations, its thousands of stars, with names familiar since childhood, its myths shared by all civilisations since Homo became Sapiens," says Brunier. "The image was therefore made as man sees it, with a regular digital camera under the dark skies in the Atacama Desert and on La Palma."

As photographing extended over several months, objects from the Solar System came and went through the star fields, with bright planets such as Venus and Jupiter. A brilliant, emerald-green comet also flew by, although spotting it among a background of tens of millions of stars will be difficult (but rewarding).

Overall, the creators of the GigaGalaxy Zoom project hope that these tremendous efforts in bringing the as observed under the best conditions on the planet to stargazers everywhere will inspire awe for the beautiful, immense Universe that we live in.

"The vision of the IYA2009 is to help people rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, and this is exactly what the GigaGalaxy Zoom project is all about," says project coordinator Henri Boffin.

The second dramatic GigaGalaxy Zoom image will be revealed next week, on 21 September 2009.

More information:

The GigaGalaxy Zoom web site is at www.gigagalaxyzoom.org
Serge Brunier's Web site: www.sergebrunier.com/gallerie/… nciel/index-eng.html

Source: ESO (news : web)

Explore further: Mysterious molecules in space

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The Planet, the Galaxy and the Laser

Aug 03, 2007

On the night of 21 July, ESO astronomer Yuri Beletsky took images of the night sky above Paranal, the 2600m high mountain in the Chilean Atacama Desert home to ESO's Very Large Telescope. The amazing images ...

The great Easter egg hunt: The void's incredible richness

Apr 13, 2006

An image made of about 300 million pixels is being released by ESO, based on more than 64 hours of observations with the Wide-Field Camera on the 2.2m telescope at La Silla (Chile). The image covers an 'empty' ...

The thousand-ruby galaxy

Sep 02, 2008

ESO's Wide Field Imager has captured the intricate swirls of the spiral galaxy Messier 83, a smaller look-alike of our own Milky Way. Shining with the light of billions of stars and the ruby red glow of hydrogen ...

Google Sky Turns Computer Into Telescope

Aug 22, 2007

Imagine cruising the heavens from your desktop and seeing all the spectacular images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Exploding stars and faraway galaxies are just a mouse click away through Sky in Google ...

Recommended for you

Astronomers measure weight of galaxies, expansion of universe

2 hours ago

Astronomers at the University of British Columbia have collaborated with international researchers to calculate the precise mass of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, dispelling the notion that the two galaxies have similar ...

Mysterious molecules in space

13 hours ago

Over the vast, empty reaches of interstellar space, countless small molecules tumble quietly though the cold vacuum. Forged in the fusion furnaces of ancient stars and ejected into space when those stars ...

Comet Jacques makes a 'questionable' appearance

Jul 28, 2014

What an awesome photo! Italian amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri nailed it earlier today using a remote telescope in New Mexico and wide-field 4-inch (106 mm) refractor. Currently the brightest comet in ...

Image: Our flocculent neighbour, the spiral galaxy M33

Jul 28, 2014

The spiral galaxy M33, also known as the Triangulum Galaxy, is one of our closest cosmic neighbours, just three million light-years away. Home to some forty billion stars, it is the third largest in the ...

Image: Chandra's view of the Tycho Supernova remnant

Jul 25, 2014

More than four centuries after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first observed the supernova that bears his name, the supernova remnant it created is now a bright source of X-rays. The supersonic expansion of ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
4 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2009
GREAT PHOTOGRAPH!

Thanks to ESO's GigaGalaxy Zoom project.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
moj85
Sep 14, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
omatumr
Sep 14, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
RayCherry
4 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2009
Never thought I would say this, but I guess Oliver just said it all.

Congratulations to ESO, GigaGalaxy (and Oliver)