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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

9-Billion-Pixel Photo of Milky Way’s Center Is Full of Stars

•, By Adam Mann
  Containing more than 84 million stars, this nine-gigapixel shot of the Milky Way’s central bulge will help astronomers unravel the complex history of star formation in our home galaxy.

The image was taken by the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA infrared survey telescope, and combined thousands of separate pictures to create this monumental work. The photo contains 10 times more stars than previous studies and will allow scientists to perform important statistical analyses of the color, temperature, mass, and ages of the different stars in the Milky Way.

 Our galaxy, like most spiral galaxies, contains a central bulge that is filled with older stars that could help scientists better understand galactic evolution. But the bulge ”concentrate[s] not only most of the stars in the Milky Way, but also gas and dust,” wrote the authors of the new research in a paper appearing Oct. 24 in Astronomy & Astrophysics. All the gas and dust obscure the central stars, making observations difficult. By using infrared wavelengths, the team was able to bypass the gas and dust and build a vast new dataset of central Milky Way stars.

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