February 5, 2023

Cape Canaveral, Florida: A galactic photo shoot has captured more than 3 billion stars and galaxies in one of the largest sky surveys in history.

A dark energy camera on a telescope in Chile made the observations over two years, focusing on the southern hemisphere sky. The NOIRLab of the National Science Foundation in the US published the results of the survey on Thursday.

The new Milky Way dataset contains a staggering 3.32 billion celestial objects. Here, a low-resolution image of the data, on the right, is superimposed on an image showing the full sky. The chart, on the left, is a full-resolution view of a small portion of the data. Credit:NOIRLab

Shown in remarkable detail, most of these Milky Way objects are stars. The count also includes small, distant galaxies that may have been mistaken for individual stars.

It’s like taking a group photo and being able to make out not only each individual, but also the color of their shirt, said lead researcher Andrew Saydjari, a doctoral candidate in physics at Harvard University.

“Despite many hours of looking at images containing tens of thousands of stars, I’m not sure my mind has grasped the magnitude of these numbers,” Saydjari said.

The Galactic Plane Of The Milky Way.

The galactic plane of the Milky Way.Credit:NOIRLab/AP

This latest survey now covers 6.5 percent of the night sky, according to the researchers. It includes the results of a survey published in 2017 that cataloged 2 billion celestial objects, mostly also stars.

Charging

With hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, the cosmic catalog is sure to grow. No further updates are planned for this particular survey, Saydjari said, but upcoming telescopes would tackle even larger areas of the sky.

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