300 million stars – free

A collection of about 70,000 images showing almost 300 million stars and galaxies has been posted online by astronomers at the Australian National University (ANU).

The collection comprises the most comprehensive map of the southern sky ever compiled, and is available free.

The map was created using SkyMapper, a 1.3 metre telescope built at the ANU’s Siding Spring Observatory at Coonabarabran in the state of New South Wales. 

The project’s lead researcher Christian Wolf says the collection of images comprised the best depiction of the southern sky so far created, but represented only the start of a five year project.

“The final map will show stars and galaxies that are up to 50 times fainter than the limits of this map,” he says.

The map is searchable using coordinates, official designations or common names. 

It’s advantage over previous constellation maps is that SkyMapper applies filters to its images, teasing out normally invisible or near-invisible features in near-infrared and near-ultraviolet.

“This abundant colour information is crucially important to search for astronomical ‘needles in the haystack’ among the vast number of stars in this map,” says co-researcher Christopher Onken.

The map can be accessed here.

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