An international team of astronomers has for the first time produced an image that shows more than one billion stars in the Milky Way.
The team created this color picture by combining infrared light images from telescopes in the northern and southern hemispheres: the UK Infrared Telescope in Hawaii (UKIRT) and the VISTA telescope in Chile.
Dr. Nicholas Cross of the University of Edinburgh presented the results today at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester, UK.
This image represents a part of a 10-year project involving scientists from the UK, Europe and Chile, who gathered data from the two telescopes.
Large structures of the Milky Way galaxy, such as gas and dust clouds where stars have formed and died, can be seen in the image.
Archived information from the project – known as the VISTA Data Flow System – is expected to enable scientists to carry out groundbreaking research in future years without the need to generate further data.
The image shows the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, which is often described as looking like two fried eggs back-to-back, with a flat disc in the middle. Earth is close to the edge of this disc, and the image shows a cross-section through the disc as seen from Earth’s perspective.
It combines data from the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey / Galactic Plane Survey with the ESO Public Survey VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea.
Astronomers used infrared radiation instead of visible light to enable them to see through much of the dust in the Milky Way and record details of the center of the galaxy.