See All 46 Billion Pixels of this Record-Breaking Milky Way Photo
Nothing beats gazing up at a clear night sky, but astronomers at Germany's Ruhr-Universität Bochum have produced the next best thing—and it’s absolutely stunning.
The team has created the largest astronomical image ever, and it features the Milky Way. Containing 46 billion pixels, the 194-gigabyte file is so large that it must be viewed through the university’s online tool, where you can zip around to different regions and even search for particular celestial landmarks.
The image is the culmination of five years of observations focused on the search for objects with variable brightness. Such objects with changing luminosity are valuable tools for astronomers, who can use them to find planets, stars, or other bodies. In their research, the team found more than 50,000 never-before-recorded objects with variable brightness.
Because the Milky Way is so expansive (and yet on a universal scale so very, very small), researchers split up the sky into 286 regions to observe. Those regions were individually photographed over time and then compiled into a complete picture of the galaxy. The photos were taken from an observatory in Chile’s Atacama Desert.