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Largest ever photo of Milky Way galaxy would require 5,200 70 inch 4K TVs to view

by on October 28, 2015

Stephan Jukic – October 28, 2015

In a rather interesting piece of astronomy news for fans of space photography and 4K display, a team of German astronomers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum has been busy compiling the World’s very largest image of the Milky Way galaxy for public viewing by those who have the display to handle even small parts of the total photo.

However, anybody who wants to see the entire image in its totality on a single display is out of luck unless they have millions of spend. Why? Because the full joined together super-photo of the Milky Way would require the surface area of roughly 5,200 4K ultra HD TVs with 70 inch screens to view as a single object. This is because the whole image encompasses a total of 46 billion pixels and at 8,847,360 pixels per TV screen, this is how many 70 inch models would cover those pixels. In other words, a total of 364,000 square inches of viewing space, spread across miles of TVs in they were stretched end to end.

In simple terms, we’re talking about a life-sized image of a very tiny chunk of the Milky Way, and by tiny chunk we do indeed mean tiny chunk, since the entire diameter of the galaxy is much greater than several thousand miles, at 1 quintillion miles in total.

Given this immense image size and the incomparably more vast size of the total galaxy around us, it’s no surprise that it took these German astronomers about 5 years to craft the super-photo from 268 smaller but also individually huge and ultra-high resolution photo segments.

The process by which these images were created, compiled and joined together has also been very difficult and rigorous, just photographing each section of the part of the galaxy in the super-photo required several days of work with the telescopes at the Bochum University Observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Thus, the astronomers and their assistants worked night after night to take and compile photos of the stars in the southern sky.

Bochum University Observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile where the vast Ultra HD galactic photo was taken

Bochum University Observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile where the vast Ultra HD galactic photo was taken

After assembling all 268 smaller images, the team then spent weeks assembling them together and calculate the whole merged mega-image, eventually creating a single 194 gigabyte photo file that would tax the resources of even the most powerful 4K ultra HD PC’s processing powers and completely go beyond such a PC’s ultra HD image viewing capacities.

And as for the purpose of this immense effort? Quite simply, the astronomers working on the project wanted to search for variable objects of medium brightness in this section of the galactic star-space. The lead astronomer on the team, Moritz Hckstein, claims that he needed the extra detail offered by such an immensely huge Milky Way galaxy photo in order to discover how stars evolve in the night sky around us.

And the effort has indeed paid off: the researchers have so far discovered 64,151 new sources of light in the Milky Way and 56,794 of these objects have never before been seen by any previous astronomical study efforts.

Those of you who might be interested in viewing the whole super-image or its parts can do so right here, at the website of the University, via its useful online tool for viewing the largest astronomical image ever created. If you have a 4K ultra HD PC monitor or even better a web connected 4K UHD TV with a big screen and excellent contrast, then the impact of the visible star-scape should be all the greater.

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