Photo: ESO/VVV Consortium/Ignacio Toledo
A team of scientists created one of the largest pictures of the centre of our galaxy, the Milk Way. A (very) close look at the image reveals a total of 84 million stars, about 10 times more than seen in previous, less detailed images. [Click here for the huge zoomable image — I really really recommend it.]Around the centre of spiral galaxies, like our very own Milky Way, there is a massive concentration of stars swirling around a gigantic black hole. Observations of this area, called the galactic bulge, help us understand the formation and evolution of the entire galaxy.
“By observing in detail the myriads of stars surrounding the centre of the Milky Way we can learn a lot more about the formation and evolution of not only our galaxy, but also spiral galaxies in general,” study researcher Roberto Saito, of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, explained in a press release from the European Southern Observatory.
Here’s the location of the image in comparison to the rest of the Milky Way:
Photo: ESO/Nick Risinge
To observe the bulge scientists used data from sensitive infrared detectors of the European Southern Observatory’s 4.1-meter Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy in the Via Lactea programme. The data was used to create the nine-gigapixel image which spans about one per cent (315 square degrees) of the entire night sky.The researchers plotted the brightness of the objects and their colour to determine what type of stars and other things make up the picture. The image contains 173 million objects, 84 million falling in the star-range of the plot. The other objects may be distant galaxies, or other objects, like dwarf stars that are too faint to see well.
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