A billion points of light

So literally seconds after I had finished writing a follow-up comment to the post below this one (in which I talked about how, under the right conditions, you can see the cloud of the Milky Way from Earth) I bumped into this picture (yes, that’s real).  But this picture isn’t the story – the real story is that the folks over at GLIMPSE (Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire) have used NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (Hubble’s infrared brother) to create a 5 gigapixel  image of the entire Milky Way galaxy – the largest in history.

What does 5 gigapixels translate to?  If you wanted to view it without any scaling artifacts, you’d need a monitor with a native resolution of 400,000 x 13,000.  Yes, that’s bigger than your iPhone.  In fact, an iPhone with a native res that high would look something like this:

 The GLIMPSE survey covered a 130 degree portion of the sky and took over 800,000 individual infrared pictures, which were then stitched together to create the behemoth composite.  A 180×2.75 foot print of the image was unveiled yesterday (June 3rd) at the American Astronomical Society meeting in St Louis (ok, road trip!!  Let’s see who can eat the most Milky Way candy bars while en route). 

Here’s what the entire image looks like at 4% of it’s full resolution (click to enlarge to 4.01%)

The resolution of the new image can now resolve clusters of stars where previously only a single blob of light existed.  Sean Carey of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center said, “This picture shows us that our Milky Way galaxy is a crowded and dynamic place. We have a lot to learn. I’ve definitely found a lot of things in this map that I didn’t expect to see.”

Things he didn’t expect to see?  Like what??  He didn’t offer any examples, so I downloaded the full, 5 gigapixel image and combed over every inch of it with our high-tech Battlestar  computers… what I found was indeed unexpected:



Ah, our infinite universe – is there anything it can’t  do?  If you’d like to check out the hi res images yourself, click here to go to Spitzer Space Telescope’s newsroom.  Even more information (and some stunning imagery) is available at the GLIMPSE home page right here

Wait a second… what am I thinking?  I know my audience.  Click here for what you really  want.


[image at the top of this post by Richard Payne.  Go here see more cool space porn]




9 Responses to “A billion points of light”

  1. 1 Boris
    June 5, 2008 at 1:07 am

    The third image from the top screams for a fleet of Shadow vessels.

  2. 2 darthmojo
    June 5, 2008 at 1:27 am


  3. 3 ety3
    June 5, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Mighty sweet. Between your recent postings, Mojo, and these JPL-NASA shots, I’ve got enough desktop wallpapers to last quite a few years.

  4. June 5, 2008 at 9:16 am

    LOL-too funny!
    Hang on…you didn’t see Ceiling Cat? That’s disappointing:(
    I may have to change my religious views now:(


  5. 6 _pole
    June 5, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Wow! These are amazing!

  6. June 10, 2008 at 8:54 am

    So the resolution on these images would be ~5E9 pixels?

    I was wondering what the resolution of the human eye was, although it’s not really a still frame capture. According to (http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/eye-resolution.html), the human eye sees at a resolution comparable to ~6E8 pixels at a 120degree panorama.

    Maybe since this was a conservative estimate for the eye’s abilities, the numbers are a little low. But still, the Spitzer Telescope must be amazing then! But then, it is NASA :)

  7. 8 darthmojo
    June 11, 2008 at 12:35 am

    PAPER: Aren’t WE the fountain of information! Interesting facts… I wonder what could be done with genetic manipulation to enhance vision. Maybe better night vision for us humans? Bring on the bionic eyes.

  8. June 11, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Haha I’m not very keen on unnecessary genetic engineering but it would be interesting. But probably a cool thing to do would be to eliminate blind spots (eg have cells that convey images to the brain not be joined in a space that interrupts the surface area of the eyeball –> octopi!)

    But really now, no multiple eyes…the huge eyeglasses simulate it enough.

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June 2008

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