Talk about lights in the dark!
The image above is a low-res version of what amounts to 22 months of dedicated work by Central Michigan University astronomer Axel Mellinger, traveling across the United States and South Africa and assembling over 3,000 individual images to create the most extensive and detailed – and zoomable – portrait of our Milky Way galaxy as seen from our vantage point here on Earth.
Click the image to visit his site; click here to see the zoomable high-res version. Absolutely incredible.
“This panorama image shows stars 1000 times fainter than the human eye can see, as well as hundreds of galaxies, star clusters and nebulae.” – Axel Mellinger
Due to the huge amount of processing needed to adjust the photos for color, distortion and ambient lighting differences to make a single seamless and accurate image, a dedicated processing pipeline had to be created. Mellinger used a Linux PC with an Intel Core2 Quad (Q9400) CPU and 16 GB of RAM to process the final image. He intends to make the full-resolution 648-megapixel version available to planetariums.
Image © 2009 Axel Mellinger