Now, 360 degree view of Milky Way on your fingertips
NASA presented a zoomable, 360-degree mosaic of our galaxy at the TEDActive 2014 Conference in Vancouver, Canada.
The star-studded panorama of our galaxy is constructed from more than 2 million infrared snapshots taken over the past 10 years by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
Robert Hurt, an imaging specialist at NASA's Spitzer Space Science Center in Pasadena, California, said that if they actually printed this out, they'd need a billboard as big as the Rose Bowl Stadium to display it, asserting that they instead created a digital viewer that anyone, even astronomers, can use.
The 20-gigapixel mosaic uses Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope visualization platform. It captures about three percent of our sky, but because it focuses on a band around Earth where the plane of the Milky Way lies, it shows more than half of all the galaxy's stars.
Using GLIMPSE data, astronomers have created the most accurate map of the large central bar of stars that marks the center of the galaxy, revealing the bar to be slightly larger than previously thought. GLIMPSE images have also shown a galaxy riddled with bubbles. These bubble structures are cavities around massive stars, which blast wind and radiation into their surroundings.
All together, the data allow scientists to build a more global model of stars, and star formation in the galaxy -- what some call the "pulse" of the Milky Way. Spitzer can see faint stars in the "backcountry" of our galaxy -- the outer, darker regions that went largely unexplored before.
(Posted on 22-03-2014)