This Mind-blowing Photo of the Milky Way Shows 84 Million Stars in 9 Billion Pixels

Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile have released a breathtaking new photograph showing the central area of our Milky Way galaxy. The photograph shows a whopping 84 million stars in an image measuring 108500×81500, which contains nearly 9 billion pixels.

It’s actually a composite of thousands of individual photographs shot with the observatory’s VISTA survey telescope, the same camera that captured the amazing 55-hour exposure that we shared back in March. Three different infrared filters were used to capture the different details present in the final image.

The VISTA’s camera is sensitive to infrared light, which allows its vision to pierce through much of the space dust that blocks the view of ordinary optical telescope/camera systems.

To give you an idea of how crazy this photo is (and what 84 million stars looks like), here are a couple of 100% crops we made while fully zoomed in. The first one shows the bright area seen in the center of the frame:

The Atlantic notes that if you were to print out this image as a standard book photograph, it would be nearly 30-feet wide and 23-feet tall.

Check out the zoomable version of the photograph yourself to get a sense of how massive this photo (and space) is.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Phil!

  • Jason Kirby

    I am assuming they did not hand count the 84 million stars

  • 11

    Cool, on a sarcastic note- It’s always handy to have a 9 giga pixel image containing 80 million stars!

  • Dave

    They did. Then someone interrupted them at 61,874,492 and they had to start all over again.

  • Christopher King

    So.. when are they going to print this?

  • OSAM

    Is there no way of getting an even 10% jpg?

  • sum_it

    In the biological imaging side of things, we use ImageJ to count cells/particles. But I’m sure these guys have something MUCH more powerful to count these stars.

  • Oskar?

    That’s about 107.14285714285714285714285714286 pixels/star. Not much.

    Print size in metric system would be: 9.144 x 7.0104 m


  • Shaul

    go to the official page, they have a few versions of the file in jpg and tiff for download, including a full size 3.9gb file on the right side bar

  • Emanuel Hoogeveen

    “The Atlantic notes that if you were to print out this image as a standard book photograph, it would be nearly 30-feet wide and 23-feet tall.”
    Oh my, someone *please* coat the side of a building with this.

  • Ross Jukes

    Incredible, what’s more incredible is that some people don’t believe for each one of these stars there couldn’t possibly be a planet harbouring some form of life… A picture like this can make you feel very special or very small…..

  • Mantis

    And this is just one photo of one galaxy, the Milky Way, while there still hundreds of billions of other galaxies in the Universe.

  • Copy_Culture

    someone will make a gigantic photo pint-out of this and submit it to ArtPrize 2013. And win. Stupid humans….

  • Christopher King

    Well then all I have to do is take a photo of their print and print it even bigger and it’s modern art.

  • Pedro Venegas-rodríguez

    they have got a guy with 10 million fingers… that was easy work…