Largest Image of the Milky Way Galaxy of All Time is 46 Billion Pixels and is Available Online

First Posted: Oct 23, 2015 06:52 AM EDT

Scientists have compiled the largest astronomical image of all time. They've put together a photo of our Milky Way galaxy with a staggering 46 billion pixels, creating a picture that can be viewed with an online tool.

For five years, astronomers have been monitoring our galaxy in the search of objects with variable brightness. These objects may include stars in front of which a planet is passing, or multiple systems where stars orbit each other and which obscure each other every now and then. In order to compile a catalogue of these variable objects, the scientists used telescopes to find more than 50,000 new variable objects.

While observing this region, though, the researchers divided it into 268 sections. They then photographed each section in intervals of several days. By comparing the images, they identified the variable objects. Then, they assembled individual images into one comprehensive image, creating a 194 Gigabyte file.

Now, anyone can view the complete Milky Way at a glance using the online tool. People can also zoom in and inspect specific areas of the Milky Way. In addition, an input window, which provides the position of the displayed image section, can be used to search for specific objects. As an example, if a user types in "Eta Carinae," the tool moves to the respective star.

The new image gives scientists and the public a new way to view the Milky Way galaxy. It could pave the way for further studies and further exploration in the future.

Want to see the image for yourself? You can find it online here.

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