This stunning 360 degree panorama of the night sky was stitched together from 37,000 images by a first-time astrophotographer.
Nick Risinger, a 28-year-old native of Seattle, trekked more than 60,000 miles around the western United States and South Africa to create the largest-ever true-color image of the stellar sphere. The final result is an interactive, zoomable sky map showing the full Milky Way and the stars, planets, galaxies and nebulae around it.
“The genesis of this was to educate and enlighten people about the natural beauty that is hidden, but surrounds us,” Risinger said.
The project began in March 2010, when Risinger and his brother took a suite of six professional-grade astronomical cameras to the desert in Nevada. By June, Risinger had quit his job as a marketing director for a countertop company to seek the darkest skies he could find.
Every night, Risinger and his father set up the cameras on a tripod that rotates with Earth. The cameras automatically took between 20 and 70 exposures each night in three different-color wavelengths. Previous professional sky surveys (including the Digitized Sky Survey of the 1980s, which is the source for the World Wide Telescope and Google Sky) shot only in red and blue. Including a third color filter gives the new survey a more real feeling, Risinger said.