NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have released the sharpest and biggest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy. The image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope has an amazing 1.5 billion pixels that would require 600 HD television screens to display in full.
This panorama is the product of the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT) program. Images were obtained from viewing the galaxy in near-ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared wavelengths, using the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard Hubble.
The view shows the galaxy in its natural visible-light color as photographed in red and blue filters.
This image is too large to display at full resolution and is best viewed here, using the zoom tool.
Andromeda Galaxy, otherwise known as Messier 31, is a large spiral galaxy that lies “just” 2.5 million light years from Earth. Hubble’s detailed view captures more than 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disc stretching across over 40,000 light-years.
The whole galaxy contains over one thousand billion stars.
But the image represents just a third of the giant galaxy. It traces the galaxy from its central galactic bulge on the left of the image, where stars are densely packed together, across lanes of stars and dust to the sparser outskirts of its outer disc on the right.
Imagery of this sophistication has more than a “wow” factor. It will help astronomers interpret the light from the many galaxies that have a similar structure but lie much further away from us than Andromeda.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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