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Beautiful view of the Milky Way, released by scientists

It took two years — and 21,400 images — to capture an amazing image of your spiral galactic home, the Milky Way.

It’s Jan. 18, astronomers have released a “giant” view of the Milky Way(Opens in a new window) as part of an ambitious project called the “Dark Energy Camera Plane Survey.” They captured this image using an instrument called the Dark Energy Camera at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, located at 2,200 meters in Chile. The camera is mounted on a large telescope that is more than 4 meters wide; it eventually captured images of a whopping 3.32 billion objects, most of which are stars.

“This is quite a feat of engineering. Imagine a group shot of over three billion people and every individual is recognizable!” Debra Fischer, division director of Astronomical Sciences at the National Science Foundation, said in a statement. “Astronomers will be poring over this detailed portrait of more than three billion stars in the Milky Way for decades to come. This is a fantastic example of what federal agency partnerships can achieve.”

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There are probably more than 100 billion stars in the Milky Way(Opens in a new window), so this panorama is a very detailed example of the galaxy as seen from Earth’s southern hemisphere. Look:

  • The first image below: This is the panorama with some 3.32 billion objects. “Most of the stars and dust in the Milky Way are in the disk — the bright band that spans this image — in which the spiral arms lie,” explains the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab, which runs large telescopes across the U.S. and elsewhere. to twist.

  • The bottom image: This is part of the giant cosmic panorama above. “This image, brimming with stars and dark dust clouds, is a small fragment – just a pinprick – of the entire Dark Energy Camera Plane Survey (DECaPS2) of the Milky Way,” a press release from NOIRLAb explains(Opens in a new window).

a panoramic view of the Milky Way galaxy

A new panoramic view of the Milky Way galaxy.
Credits: DECaPS2 / DOE / FNAL / DECam / CTIO / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA // Image processing: M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)

billions of objects in the Milky Way galaxy

Millions of stars. Where’s Waldo?
Credits: DECaPS2 / DOE / FNAL / DECam / CTIO / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA Image processing: M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)

And if you want more, there’s more. You can view the full survey, with the ability to zoom in and out, on the Outdated survey viewer(Opens in a new window) website.

Our galaxy contains an abundance of stars, but it also contains gigantic regions of dust and gas. To peer through these obscuring parts of space, astronomers have captured wavelengths of light invisible to the naked eye called near-infrared wavelengths. This type of light, which travels in longer waves than visible light, can sneak through or pass through space dust and reveal what lies beyond (the powerful James Webb Space Telescope also sees infrared light).

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These new images capture an almost uncountable number of stars. Still, there’s a lot we can’t see out there, but us can imagine. Most stars have at least one planet and many have several star systems. That amounts to more than a trillion exoplanets(Opens in a new window) in our Milky Way galaxy only.

Some of these planets can rain gems. Some could be ocean worlds. Others could be Earth-sized rocky planets. There is unparalleled potential in our galaxy, a place teeming with brilliant stars.

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