An image of 84 million stars has been created by an international team of astronomers from data collected by the UK-built VISTA infrared survey telescope at the ESO's (Garching, Germany) Paranal Observatory.
Most spiral galaxies, including the Milky Way, have a large concentration of ancient stars surrounding the center that astronomers call the bulge. Understanding the formation and evolution of the Milky Way's bulge is vital for understanding the galaxy as a whole.
The new image of the bulge contains a treasure trove of information about the structure and content of the Milky Way. One interesting feature of it is that it reveals a large number of faint red dwarf stars.
"This gigantic image is an impressive testament to the quality of the images being taken at the VISTA telescope which UK astronomers and engineers conceived, designed and built for delivery to its home at the European Southern Observatory site in Chile's Atacama desert," says Professor Jim Emerson from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Queen Mary, University of London.
A team of astronomers used data from one of six public surveys carried out with VISTA to create the monumental 108,200 by 81,500 pixel color image, one of the biggest astronomical images ever produced.
The processing of VISTA's raw data into astronomically useful calibrated images was carried out at the Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit which is part of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University (Cambridge, UK).
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-- Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design