IANS | NewKerala
Astronomers have created a catalogue of more than 84 million stars in the central parts of the Milky Way, with a staggering nine-gigapixel image from the VISTA infrared survey telescope at the European Space Organisation observatory.
This gigantic dataset contains stars 10 times more than previous studies and is a major step towards understanding our home galaxy.
The data has been used to create a monumental 108,200 by 81,500 pixel colour image containing nearly nine billion pixels. This is one of the biggest astronomical images ever produced. The team has now used these data to compile the largest catalogue of the central concentration of stars in the Milky Way ever created.
The image gives viewers an incredible view of the central part of our galaxy. It is so large that if printed with the resolution of a typical book, it would be nine metres long and seven metres tall.
“By observing in detail the 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,” said Roberto Saito (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Universidad de Valparaiso and The Milky Way Millennium Nucleus, Chile), who led the study.
Most spiral galaxies, including our home galaxy, the Milky Way, have a large concentration of ancient stars surrounding the centre that astronomers call the bulge, according to a statement of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile.
Understanding the formation and evolution of the Milky Way’s bulge is vital for understanding the galaxy is a whole. However, obtaining detailed observations of this region is not an easy task. ”Observations of the bulge of the Milky Way are very hard because it is obscured by dust,” said Dante Minniti (Pontificia Universidad, Chile), study co-author.
“To peer into the heart of the galaxy, we need to observe in infrared light, which is less affected by the dust.” The large mirror, wide field of view and very sensitive infrared detectors of ESO’s 4.1-metre Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) make it by far the best tool for this job.