NASA announced Thursday, March 20, at the TED Active 2014 Conference in Vancouver, Canada, NASA astronomers and engineers have successfully produced a telescope that grants a spectacular 360-degree view of the galaxy. The Milky Way Galaxy will be as accessible as google maps, clicking a button to zoom in on the beautiful mosaic of the Milky Way.
The feat of producing a 360-degree image of the Milky Way was no easy task. The star filled panoramas of the galaxy are constructed from more than 2 million infrared photographs, taken over the last decade by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. It has been estimated that if NASA were to actually print out the panoramic photograph of the Milky Way, they would require a surface as large as a football stadium for display. Imaging specialists like Robert Hurt, worked on the project out of NASA’s Pasadena, California Spitzer Space Center. In light of the massive surface area necessary for displaying it, NASA has created a digital viewer that astronomers, or the everyday enthusiasts can operate.
The Spitzer Telescope operated on a 20-gigapixel platform developed by Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope visual platform. The NASA telescope grants viewers a spectacular 360-degree view of the Milky Way galaxy in a somewhat counter-intuitive way. The visualization telescope focuses on capturing roughly 3 percent of the sky, however it focuses on a singular band around the Earth where the plane of the Milky Way lies, thus displaying more than half of the Milky Way’s stars.
Spitzer began its journey into space in 2003, providing NASA with 10 fruitful years of studying many topics, ranging from rogue asteroids in the solar system to the outer remote regions of the Milky Way galaxy and observable universe. NASA scientists report that the telescope has spent 4,142 hours or roughly 172 days taking photographs of the Milky Way spiral with Microsoft’s infrared technology. The photographs have been cohesively put together on full display giving humanity its most expansive view of the Milky Way Galaxy. The telescope has effectively helped NASA astronomers answer question about the Milky Way.
The Milky Way galaxy is a spiral of stars and planets, with a formation similar to a flat spiraling disk. Earth’s solar system lies in the outer area of one of the Milky Way’s spiraling arms. When the NASA telescope looks toward the center of the Milky Way, astronomers see a dusty, crowded nucleus of stars packed closely together. The infrared technology allows scientists to go beyond where visible light becomes ineffective. The dust increases in such a large amount visible light emitted by stars is blocked.
NASA astronomers and scientists alike, believe the NASA telescope grants us not only a spectacular 360-degree view of the galaxy, but also will help NASA construct a more galactic model of the Milky Way’s star systems. The telescope has already proven to NASA that the Milky Way is actually larger than previously believed. The infrared light technology allows NASA to see the outer-most dark regions and unexplored areas of the galaxy. NASA continues to lead the world of science in discovering new planets and stars in the universe. As our technology grows the excitement around space exploration will expand with it.
Editorial by Zane Foley