Cape Canaveral, Florida – A galactic imaging session has captured more than 3 billion stars and galaxies in one of the largest sky surveys ever.
A dark-powered camera on a telescope in Chile made the observations over a two-year period, focusing on the southern hemisphere skies. NOIRLab of the National Science Foundation released the results of the survey this week.
Shown in great detail, most of these Milky Way objects are stars. The number also includes small, distant galaxies that may have been mistaken for individual stars.
It’s like taking a group shot and being able to distinguish not only each individual, but the color of their shirt, said lead researcher Andrew Saydjari, a PhD student in physics at Harvard University.
“Despite many hours of staring at images containing tens of thousands of stars, I’m not sure my brain has gone round the size of those numbers,” Sedjari said in an email.
This latest survey now covers 6.5% of the night sky, according to the researchers. It includes the results of a survey published in 2017 that ranked two billion celestial bodies, most of them stars.
With hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, the cosmic catalog is sure to grow. There are no further updates to this particular survey, Sedjari said, but upcoming telescopes will process larger regions of the sky.
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