A stunning new 800-million-pixel panorama of the entire sky has been released online for everyone to enjoy. GigaGalaxy Zoom is a project for the International Year of Astronomy, and it allows users to dive right into the Milky Way Galaxy, and learn more about our celestial neighborhood. The project allows stargazers to explore and experience the Universe as it is seen with the unaided eye from ESO’s observing sites in Chile, one of the darkest and best viewing locations in the world.
With this tool users can learn more about many different and exciting objects in the image, such as multicolored 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.
This is the first of three extremely high-resolution images that will be featured in the GigaGalaxy Zoom project. Another image will be released next week, on Sept. 21.
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The 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.
The resulting image, now available on GigaGalaxy Zoom, 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.”