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NASA captures over half the galaxy's stars in new infrared panorama

Alexis Santos
03.26.14
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Keeping a steady hand when snapping panoramic pictures is a valuable skill, but NASA's upstaged your photographic prowess with something a tad more impressive. Using over 2 million infrared pictures shot with the Spitzer Space Telescope over the course of a decade, the agency's created what's being called the clearest infrared panorama of our galaxy ever made. This is the first time all photographs from a project dubbed the Galactic Legacy Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (or GLIMPSE360) have been combined into a single image. Although the final product only shows three percent of the sky, it contains over half of all stars in the Milky Way.

Scientists have used the data from the effort to construct what's said to be the most precise map of stars running through the galaxy's center, and will use it to analyze the Milky Way's spiral arms. In addition, the composite will act as a roadmap of sorts for the James Webb Telescope, which will take more detailed infrared images when it's chucked into space in 2018. Space junkies can pan through the whole photo online or download the raw, full resolution images. If you plan to do the latter, be warned: some of these files hover around 1GB in size.

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