January 12, 2011

Largest Ever Picture Of Universe Unveiled

Astronomers have released the largest digital, color image of the universe ever recorded--a mosaic created from millions of 2.8 megapixel images recorded over the past decade.

The image, which was unveiled during the 217th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Seattle, Washington on Tuesday, was captured and assembled by researchers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS).

SDSS-III, as it has been dubbed, is a full color representation of the night sky that has a resolution of more than a trillion pixels and would require half a million HDTVs to be viewed in its entirety and in all its detail, the SDSS said in a January 11 press release.

It is said to be the most comprehensive view of the night sky ever created.

"This image provides opportunities for many new scientific discoveries in the years to come," Bob Nichol, a professor at the University of Portsmouth and Scientific Spokesperson for the SDSS-III collaboration, said in a statement Tuesday.

"This image is the culmination of decades of work by hundreds of people, and has already produced many incredible discoveries," he added. "Astronomy has a rich tradition of making all such data freely available to the public, and we hope everyone will enjoy it as much as we have."

According to Guardian Science Correspondent Alok Jha, the image was created using a 138-megapixel camera attached to a 2.5 meter telescope housed at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico.

Jha notes that the new image replaces a more than five-decade old one that had been created using photographic plates in the 1950s, and contains 10 times as many celestial objects as its predecessor.

In fact, David Weinberg, an Ohio State University astronomer who worked on the SDSS project, told the Guardian that there were roughly a quarter of a billion stars and as many galaxies recorded on the image, or a total of more than 500 million total celestial objects.


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