Our Milky Way galaxy is so massive that no one will blame you if you get lost trying to figure out all of the numbers involved. At LEAST 200 billion stars, possibly billions of planets, among a host of other things. So when presented with a panoramic view of the center of our Milky Way that is only a measly 340 MILLION pixels, you may think it’s puny compared to the relative vastness of the real Milky Way. Try telling that to your computer’s graphics card:
Taken by the Paranal Observatory on a mountaintop in Chile, this image is painstakingly stitched together from more than 1,200 individual photos..and the image above isn’t even the largest size available that you can download for your desktop screensaver.
One of the most fascinating things about peering towards the center of our galaxy like this isn’t what you can see, but rather what cannot be seen. Even with such incredible detail, it’s easy to forget that a lot of what is being observed here is gas and dust (especially the darker areas) that not only obscure the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, but also far FAR bigger things that are on the opposite side that cannot be seen from our vantage point on Earth.
Click the links for more information, or to hurt your eyes by staring at your computer screen for the next few hours.