This 6 GB Photo of the Milky Way Is As Stunning As It Is Massive
Over the past 10 years the Spitzer Space Telescope captured this gorgeous infrared panorama of the Milky Way
Our Milky Way galaxy is a massive collection of stars and dust, planets and black holes that, altogether, stretches some 100,000 light-years across. For the past ten years, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has been snapping photos of the galactic disk, from the bright dense core to the wispy spiral arms. The Spitzer team took some two million shots, and now they've stitched them all together to produce an absolutely staggering panorama of our home galaxy.
At the highest resolutions, the panorama had to be broken up into eight sections, each 67,500 pixels across and capping out at a whopping 1.38 gigabytes. If you wanted to print out the full image, you'd need a space 150 feet wide.
But there's a curious feature about the Milky Way, and our vantage point of it. We reside in the Orion spiral arm, out on the edge of the galaxy. So, from here, says NASA in a video describing the new Spitzer panorama, most of the galaxy looks like a flat disk. Though the photo would be 150 feet wide, it would only be 4 feet tall. And that photo, says NASA, would contain more than half of all the stars in the Milky Way.
Alongside the full resolution photographs, NASA has also produced a set of interactive viewers that let you scroll and zoom your way around the galaxy.