The Milky Way is a large place, and getting all the stars together, even from just the inner galaxy, for a family photo requires a big canvas. The imaging team from the Spitzer Space Telescope today unveiled the largest, highest resolution infrared picture ever taken of the Milky Way. The photo spans 55 meters (180 feet), and takes up almost one entire wall in the huge exhibit hall here at the AAS meeting in St. Louis (above.) The image is made of 800,000 snapshots taken by Spitzer, amassing 39,000 X 6000 pixels, and shows an area of sky 120 degrees longitude by 2 degrees latitude. It provides 100 times better angular resolution than any previous survey and is 100 times more sensitive. There’s also an online version….
This “chops” up the image into five strips, and certainly isn’t as impressive as the 55 meter version! However, there’s another, more spectacular way to view this spectacular image. The GLIMPSE (Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire) Image Viewer provides a great way to view and browse this image. The viewer boasts the following tagline: “One spacecraft, 5 infrared bands, 800,000 images, 4 billion pixels of data.” It lets you scan the image with both the IRAC (Infrared Array Camera) on Spitzer, or the MIPS (Multiband Imaging Photometer.)