25/10/2012 09:11 BST | Updated 24/12/2012 10:12 GMT

'Largest Ever' Photo Of The Galaxy Captures 84 Million Stars (PICTURES)

The largest and most detailed photograph of our galaxy ever taken has been unveiled.

The gigantic nine-gigapixel image captures more than 84 million stars at the core of the Milky Way.

It was created with data gathered by the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile.


If it was printed with the resolution of a newspaper it would stretch 30 feet long and 23 feet tall, the team behind it said, and has a resolution of 108,200 by 81,500 pixels.

Thousands of infrared pictures were combined to make the final image. It is so detailed it is difficult to reproduce online, except in small sections.

It depicts the "bulge" at the centre of the galaxy, where ancient stars are concentrated. More than 173 million different objects were identified in the picture, with 84 million thought to be galaxies. The rest are likely galaxies, or were too faint to identify.

"By observing in detail the myriads of stars surrounding the centre of the Milky Way we can learn a lot more about the formation and evolution of not only our galaxy, but also spiral galaxies in general," said Roberto Saito, of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, in a statement.

Click Here To See The Full-Size Image