Image Credit: ESO/VVV Survey/D. Minniti (Acknowledgement: Ignacio Toledo, Martin Kornmesser)

With the enormous array of telescopes and technology we have, we’ve taken millions of photos of the cosmos, but there are a few that become landmark achievements, pictures all space-lovers become familiar with…

So here’s another addition: using ESO’s 4.1-metre Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), in 2012, astronomers were able to piece together the most detailed image of the Milky Way’s central bulge ever taken. The picture also includes 84 million stars, over 10 times more stars than any other prior attempt was able to capture! At its highest resolution, this contains a whopping 9 billion individual pixels. This means that if printed at the level of detail for a normal book, the photo would be a whopping 9 meters (30 feet) long and 7 meters (23 feet) tall!

But why would such a task have been undertaken? Well this area of ancient stars surrounding the galactic center holds the key to understanding the evolution and formation of our home galaxy as whole. (As well as the fact that cataloging this vast area of sky in such detail is also an astounding achievement in and of itself!)

Here is a link to the full 9 gigapixel image. Feel free to move around and zoom in!

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