New image shows billion Milky Way stars

March 29, 2012 at 3:14 PM
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MANCHESTER, England, March 29 (UPI) -- A picture of the Milky Way galaxy created from thousands of individual telescope images has revealed the details of a billion stars, British astronomers say.

The giant picture was stitched together from images taken by two British-developed telescopes at observatories in Chile and Hawaii.

The project, known as the Vista Data Flow System, will provide an archive of data to allow astronomers to make new discoveries about the local cosmos, scientists said.

"There are about 1 billion stars in there -- this is more than has been in any other image produced by surveys," Nick Cross of the University of Edinburgh told the BBC.

"When it was first produced, I played with it for hours; it's just stunning," he said.

Cross presented the new work to the U.K. National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester.

Ten years in preparation, the image combines data from the U.K. Infrared Telescope in Hawaii with survey data acquired by the Vista telescope in Chile.

Researchers from Edinburgh and Cambridge University processed all the data that created the giant image and have made it available to astronomers around the world.

"There are many uses for this picture," Cross said. "It will help us really understand the true nature of our galaxy, to see where everything is."

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