NEW IMAGE OF THE MILKY WAY SHOWS 800 MILLION STARS

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At first glance it seems to be a dark planet and cut in the center by a deep red scar. But get a little closer and realize that you are looking at something far larger than a planet - greater than 100 billion planets.

This is a new map of the cosmos, compiled from four years of observations by the Pan-STARRS observatory on Maui, Hawaii. Hidden within this image is our galaxy - which is the great red spot in the middle - and more than 800 million stars, galaxies and interstellar moving objects visible from the vantage point.

Soon, observers around the world will have the chance to study each of these objects in detail, thanks to what scientists at the University of Hawaii called the largest dissemination of astronomical data in history.

Of course, it's not the whole universe visible in the picture - just the visible sky over Hawaii. In partnership with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the US will be launching 1.6 billion petabytes of data recorded by the Pan-STARRS telescope since 2010. This huge data dumping equals about 2 billion selfies, or 30,000 times the total text content of Wikipedia.

The Pan-STARRS observatory consists of a 1.8 meter telescope equipped with a 1.4 billion pixel camera. The Pan-STARRS was the first research instrument to observe the entire visible sky of Hawaii several times in many types of light waves. One of the aims of the research is to identify moving, transient and variable objects, including asteroids that could threaten the Earth. The survey took approximately four years to complete, sweeping the sky 12 times in five different light filters. [ LiveScience ]

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