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What you see here is the core of the Milky Way, as seen by the European Space Agency’s VISTA telescope. If you looked up at the center of the Milky Way with your naked eye, these stars and dust clouds would occupy a patch of space that’s just a few square inches.
This is the most detailed photo ever of the Milky Way, enabling ESO astronomers to catalog no less than 84 million stars.
The image above is just a thumbnail, however. The source image has a resolution of 108,500×81,500, or 9 gigapixels, and is 24.6 gigabytes in size. To reach such an utterly crazy resolution, the VISTA telescope took thousands of photos of the sky, and then compiled them into this single, 9-gigapixel mosaic.
VISTA, in case you were wondering, stands for Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, and with a 4.1-meter mirror it is the largest visible and near-infrared survey telescope in the world. Put simply, this is the best view of the Milky Way ever (and yes, the full-res version is embedded at the end of this story).