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This 9-Gigapixel Image of the Milky Way, Containing 84 Million Stars, Will Give You Chills

The image below depicts a spectacular perspective of the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, as seen by the European Space Agency’s VISTA telescope.

The core of the Milky Way, which contains countless stars and cosmic dust clouds, would likely appear as a small patch of a few inches with the naked eye.

However, owing to the VISTA telescope, we now have one of the most detailed images of the Milky Way ever taken, enabling astronomers to catalog an astounding 84 million stars. After viewing this image, ponder the following. Are we the only species in the Milky Way? The image displayed above is a thumbnail of the original image, which has a mind-boggling resolution of 108,500 by 81,500 pixels, or 9 gigapixels, and occupies 24.6 gigabytes.

If you like to download the 24.6-gigabyte image, you can do so by clicking on this link. Click here to view the entire 9-gigapixel image and zoom in on the stars. This image is simply too large to display at full quality and is best viewed by zooming in.

In order to obtain this image, ESO’s VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) telescope captured hundreds of photographs of the sky, which were then assembled by astronomers into a 9 gigapixel mosaic. The Vista telescope is one of the WORLD’S LARGEST visible and near-infrared telescopes, and it just demonstrated how awesome it is with this mind-boggling image.

The VISTA telescope’s remarkable infrared camera enables it to peek past the dust clouds that block the view of other telescopes, resulting in a crystal-clear image. Below is a comparison of the identical image of the Milky Way as seen through an infrared telescope and a visible telescope in order to illustrate how powerful the VISTA telescope actually is.

Impressive, right? Imagine what else is available. This image helps you appreciate our cosmic home even more, wouldn’t you agree? The Milky Way galaxy is incredibly distinctive and gorgeous. However, this photograph was not taken just for aesthetic objectives. In fact, this enormous vision has enabled scientists and astronomers to identify several cosmic objects worthy of future study.

This image enabled researchers to identify 84 million million stars within the Milky Way. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is part of a supermassive structure comprised of over 800 galaxies located approximately one billion million light years away. Our galaxy is part of an intergalactic highway, dubbed Laniakea, that spans approximately 500 million light years and contains approximately 100,000,000,000,000,000 Suns.

Oh, and just for fun, did you know that astronomers estimate there are approximately 500 billion galaxies in the known universe, which means there are approximately 50 quadrillion billion quadrillion billion (51022) habitable planets? According to astronomers, our Milky Way Galaxy has approximately 400 BILLION stars.


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