Milky Way photo with 46 billion pixels is the largest astronomical image of all time

October 21, 2015

Astronomers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum have compiled the largest astronomical image to date. The picture of the Milky Way contains 46 billion pixels. In order to view it, researchers headed by Prof Dr Rolf Chini from the Chair of Astrophysics have provided an online tool ( The image contains data gathered in astronomical observations over a period of five years.

Five-year observation period at the university observatory

For five years, the astronomers from Bochum have been monitoring our Galaxy in the search of objects with variable brightness. Those objects may, for example, include stars in front of which a planet is passing, or multiple systems where stars orbit each other and which obscure each other every now and then. In his PhD thesis, Moritz Hackstein is compiling a catalogue of such variable objects of medium brightness. For this purpose, the team from the Chair of Astrophysics takes pictures of the southern sky night after night. To this end, they use the telescopes at Bochum's university observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile. More than 50,000 new variable objects, which had hitherto not been recorded in databanks, have been discovered by the researchers so far.

268 individual images make up the photo of the Milky Way

The area that the astronomers observe is so large that they have to subdivide it into 268 sections. They photograph each section in intervals of several days. By comparing the images, they are able to identify the variable objects. The team has assembled the individual images of the 268 sections into one comprehensive image. Following a calculation period of several weeks, they created a 194 Gigabyte file, into which images taken with different filters have been entered.

Online tool facilitates search for individual celestial objects

Using the , any interested person can view the complete ribbon of the Milky Way at a glance, or zoom in and inspect specific areas. An input window, which provides the position of the displayed image section, can be used to search for specific objects. If the user types in "Eta Carinae", for example, the tool moves to the respective star; the search term "M8" leads to the lagoon nebula.

Explore further: Binary stars are more common than we thought

More information: M. Hackstein et al. The Bochum Survey of the Southern Galactic Disk: II. Follow-up measurements and multi-filter photometry for 1323 square degrees monitored in 2010 - 2015, Astronomische Nachrichten (2015). DOI: 10.1002/asna.201512195 M.

Haas et al. The Bochum survey of the southern Galactic disk: I. Survey design and first results on 50 square degrees monitored in 2011, Astronomische Nachrichten (2012). DOI: 10.1002/asna.201211717

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2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 21, 2015
This is fantastic! I am prepared to waste an entire day using the tools they provided to browse the image. Right now, it seems zooming in too far creates blank spots, I wonder if that's the tool, my computer, or my impatience(incompetence) using it? I got a middle of the road computer. I did get some errors the first few times I loaded the page, so maybe it's also a bandwidth thing.

Anyone else play with it? I dig it anyway.
2 / 5 (4) Oct 21, 2015
I immediately realized I'd need a supercomputer to view the image properly, so I quit bothering with it.
Uncle Ira
3.5 / 5 (8) Oct 21, 2015
I immediately realized I'd need a supercomputer to view the image properly, so I quit bothering with it.

Returnering-Skippy. How you are? Better today I hope. Yeah, I'm good.

If you follow that link up there it will take you to the place on the interweb where you can zoom in and zoom out too anyplace in the galaxy. It's pretty cool. I do not have the super-computer either but mine is pretty good and it was really interesting. I don't know much of what is was I was looking at but it's got some goods stuffs like star nurseries and nubulas and things.
2 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
Uncle Ira:

I am looking at the map and pondering the origin of some of the structures. I wish theyhad given a few more pixels of mapping in the North/South direction, so that we could have more distinction from the top and bottom of the galactic disk and inter-galactic space.

The "Green" Nebular structures are intriguing to me. Without knowing what type of filters are used on the telescopes, I can't say exactly what that is, but Oxygen is often rendered as green in photos in astronomy. I don't know if these images are true color or false color.

I was pondering the fact that given the (currently accepted) age of the Milky Way, the galaxy should be "well mixed", therefore nebular patches such as this must be very young compared to the galaxy at large. This suggests they are created by Supernovas or by collisions with extra-galactic clouds of matter and/or dwarf galaxies.

2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2015
The scale of some of the nebulas is such that if they were created by a supernova, then only only a massive "First Generation" (multi)-thousand solar mass sized star, or maybe a modern "O class" star could have created them.

It's still possible to have "new" First Generation stars in the universe under the right conditions, but it would seem unlikely to happen within the existing mass of a well-mixed galaxy...unless an extra-galactic cloud of hydrogen and helium hit the Milky Way.

A couple of the smaller ones are obviously planetary nebulae and Super Nova remnants, but some of the larger nebulae need more exotic explanations, i.e. extra-galactic collision or O-Class star, etc.

I actually used the tool before that post the other day, but I was impatient with the load times.

When I used it again yesterday I was more patient and used the Zoom a lot to study binary stars and globular clusters, as well as the nebulae.
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2015
It would be nice if they re-do this every couple weeks or months (when technology allows) in order to make an active movie of the entire galaxy, so you could look at binaries orbiting one another and stuff like that...anywhere in the galaxy.

It might be useful for finding previously unknown neutron stars and stellar mass black holes, because it would be a broad-spectrum search, much like looking for Pluto the way Clyde Tombough did....if you saw a star in an apparent orbit around an "invisible" object it would be evidence of a black hole or a stable/completely dead neutron star.

Obviously a computer search would be very useful for this purpose, but we also know that humans somehow beat computers anyway when searching for anomalous patterns. So an all-methods available approach would work best.

Finding a stellar mass black hole/Dark Star, inside the Milky Way would be useful to parse theory and interpretation of theory, advancing physics.
2 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
Astronomers seem to think about 3 major types of black holes, and look out for a fourth:

"Stellar" mass- about 8 to 10 Suns resulting from a 30M core collapse supernova.

Super-massive-Core of galaxies and some dwarf galaxies.

Intermediate mass - Believed to be the seeds of dwarf galaxies (and I think some Globulars should have htem).

Microscopic - Hypothesis, no real supporting evidence yet. I believe the supporting evidence would be the discovery of a black hole with mass 1 to 3 Suns (less than a neutron star,) as no known mechanism can cause a collapse of matter to a black hole of so low mass. This would suggest that a ~solar mass Star "captured" a micro-black hole and was then eaten by it...discovering a 1 solar mass black hole would be strong evidence for the existence of micro black holes.

Thus I consider a 5th type of black hole: A macroscopic object consumed by a micro-black hole, and having mass less than explained by a "core collapse" black hole.
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2015
I think the "black" nebulas are ordinary molecular clouds of things like hydrogen, helium, trace amounts of carbon monoxide/dioxide, and water-ice, etc, but again, without knowing the specifics on the way the images are processed and what filters were used, I can't be sure of that.

You'll notice there are only a few of the black dust/gas patches here and there, and the vast majority of the galaxy appears well-mixed and evolved into stellar systems.
2.3 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
Okay, I found the "Pillars of Creation" nebula, which is actually green in the image, which is normally rendered as black in images I've seen, so the colors are misleading compared to normal images I've ever looked at for nebulas and supernovas.

In any case, I find the structure difficult to explain without invoking some sort of asymmetric collision or supernova, considering how old the galaxy is and how much mixing should have happened by now.

These nebula, both the green ones and the black ones, have to be extremely young compared to the average age of structures in the galaxy.;itg=1
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2015
When you look at the entire structure on this galaxy map, as opposed to the one looking only at the pillars themselves, you can see how massive and cataclysmic the formation of this structure must have been.

It reminds me of the ejected and re-captured dust in galaxy merger simulations.


Like this....

Like a big blob of left-over extra-galactic gas and dust collided with the Milky Way.
2 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
Astronomy has issues that aren't going to be solved any time soon, such as "red" galaxies which appear to be much older than the alleged age of the universe; apparently around 22 to 26 billion years in total, based on distance and apparent stage of evolution....which is to say the galaxy was apparently already MORE than 11 billion years old, and then light from the galaxy traveled 10 or 11 billion light years to get here, giving an actual age of 22 billion years.

If a 4th/5th dimensional hyper-sphere was expanding in the temporal dimension then the "radius" in time would be allegedly 13.7 to 13.8 billion years...but what does the "diameter" of the expanding hypersphere measure along the temporal dimension (negative direction with respect to radius)?

Does Time move backwards? If so then the universe is twice as old as it's "age", giving 27.4 to 27.6 billion years, which then makes it semi-reasonable for a "red" galaxy to appear to be ~22 billion years old.
2 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
It is ironic that if you assume the Sun started as 100% Hydrogen and then calculate how long it would take to reach it's present composition (believed to be about 27.4% Helium internally and slightly less Helium on the surface), then you reach a startling conclusion:

If the Sun started out at 100% hydrogen, then it's age would be calculated as 27.85 Billion years.

This is within 0.9% to 1.64% of the 27.4 to 27.6 Billion for the universe itself in the reverse-time expanding hypersphere scenario.


I therefore reach a startling conclusion:

If the scientists estimates of the Sun's composition are accurate, then the Sun is actually an approximately 27.8 billion year old FIRST GENERATION star, and the universe is double the age it is believed to be.

This is in agreement with the Red Galaxy method to within 26.5% error or less, which is closer than precision scientists can measure the mass of Betelgeuse.
2 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
Thus the actual math suggests that the Sun is the same age as the entire universe itself, and is possibly even slightly older than any other star contained within the universe...

Thus confirming the "He made the stars also," presumably afterwards, line in the Bible.

If the rest of the universe is 13.7 billion years old, then the Sun is as much as twice the age of the rest of the universe, instead of being about 1/3rd the age of the universe which scientists currently believe it to be.

Hard for you atheists to believe, but the Sun is the oldest Star in the Universe, and even pre-dates most of the space-time itself...

Laugh at yourselves Atheists.

God is real and you can't accept it.
2 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
The Biblical Creation story is literally more accurate than the Standard Model of Solar System formation and the standard model of the Big Bang....even using the same physics and assumptions you liars start with...

The only difference is I didn't make any shit up, like Hoyle did; I assumed it started as simple and pure as possible.

Suck it atheists.

I just proved the Biblical creation story is more accurate and precise than your model...using your own physics laws.

"From everlasting to everlasting."

God is past infinite too you know, so it makes sense after all.

2 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
If you can't fathom that then...

Now, if you divide 27.85 billion by 2 (to account for the time running backwards phenomenon) that gives a forward-time age for the Sun as being 13.925 Billion years.

Which still makes it slightly older than the current accepted forward-time-only age of the remainder entire universe; agreeing to within 0.9% to 1.6%.

Thus still agreeing very closely with the Biblical account, that the Sun is the oldest or tied for oldest luminous object in the universe.

I didn't make this up.

All I did was take the calculated rate of hydrogen burning and apply it to the assumption of a 100% hydrogen Sun, and found the time to get 27.4% Helium, which turns out to be EXACTLY twice the accepted age of the universe.

And since the universe is supposedly expanding (which in no way contradicts any law or concept I can think of,) then it makes sense that time itself is expanding, therefore if space can expand in both directions on axis; time probably does too.
2 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
So the Big Bang model (correctly expanded both directions on all axis,) combined with the assumption of a 100% hydrogen Sun confirms the Biblical creation story to within 1.6% error.

Have fun trying to offer an atheistic explanation of that one you guys.

"He stretches out the north over empty space And hangs the earth on nothing.-Job 26:7.

Notice that the ancient Hebrews knew the Earth was residing in empty space.

Around the same time, the Greeks and Romans thought it was riding on the backs of elephants and turtles in an endless ocean.

Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
Without knowing what type of filters are used
it is amazing what you can learn by simply reading the links:
Furthermore, we present U, B, V, r ′, i ′, z ′ photometry for all sources within the GDS, resulting in a new multi-color catalog of nearly 16×106 sources detected in at least one filter. Both the GDS and the near-infrared VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea survey (VVV) complement each other in the overlap area of about 300 square degrees enabling future
about this
confirming the "He made
isn't it strange that your deity made humans to be exactly opposite it's own design? why are "men" so important in the bible when women are the creators and nurturers of life?
epic fail: and religion- NOT SCIENCE
leave your BS at home

The Biblical Creation story is literally more accurate than the Standard Model
WTF? because it makes sense to make plants before sunlight?
5 / 5 (5) Oct 25, 2015
It is ironic that if you assume the Sun started as 100% Hydrogen

Isn't the sun 2nd generation?
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 26, 2015
You do know that returners is insane, I presume?
5 / 5 (2) Oct 26, 2015
Anyone else play with it?

Well, I occasionally play with the 3D galaxy map in Elite:Dangerous (which is ostensibly based on all kinds of star atlases and contains the full 400 billion stars of the galaxy). Zooming through this is scary. Suns/solar systems whip by by the thousands a second and you can keep going for quite a long time in order to fully traverse the galaxy top to bottom (never mind along the full width)
Nothing has ever hit the fact home more than this: The galaxy is a BIG place.

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