ESO has released a 9-gigapixel image of the central part our galaxy that shows more than 84 million stars. It is the largest picture ever taken of the Milky Way.
The image was formed with the help of the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile. Measuring 12-foot in diameter, the telescope has a camera with 16 infrared detectors and a total resolution of 67 megapixels. Data from six separate surveys involving the camera enabled ESO to stitch together a picture that has now a resolution of 108,200 by 81,500 pixels. Printed in a reasonable resolution (600 dpi) to highlight the content, the image would result in a size of 180 x 136 inches or about 15 x 11 feet. ESO said that the image shows about 84 million stars in the center of our galaxy.
"Each star occupies a particular spot in this diagram at any moment during its lifetime," explained Dante Minniti from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, and co-author of the study. "Where it falls depends on how bright it is and how hot it is. Since the new data gives us a snapshot of all the stars in one go, we can now make a census of all the stars in this part of the Milky Way."
At the time of this writing the zoomable picture was removed from the ESO's website due to overwhelming demand from web users. The organization said it will be offering the full picture at a later point in time again.