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Astronomers have cataloged 84 million stars at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy using an enormous cosmic photo snapped by a telescope in Chile, a view that is billed as the largest survey ever of the stars in our galaxy’s core.
The staggering 9-gigapixel picture was created with data gathered by the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), an instrument at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. The zoomable image is so large that it would measure 30 feet long by 23 feet tall (9 by 7 meters) if printed with the resolution of a typical book, researchers said.
The huge new picture probes the Milky Way’s central bulge, a concentration of ancient stars found near the core of most spiral galaxies. Getting good looks at 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 co-author Dante Minniti, also of Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. “To peer into the heart of the galaxy, we need to observe in infrared light, which is less affected by the dust.”