London: Astronomers at a German university have compiled a picture of the Milky Way that contains 46 billion pixels -- the largest astronomical image to date.
The image containing data gathered in astronomical observations over a period of five years was compiled by the astronomers at the Ruhr-University Bochum. It can be seen by an online tool, according to the university.
"For five years, the astronomers from Bochum have been monitoring our Galaxy in the search of objects with variable brightness. Those objects may, for example, include stars in front of which a planet is passing, or multiple systems where stars orbit each other and which obscure each other every now and then," the university said in a statement on Wednesday.
The team, headed by professor Rolf Chini from the Chair of Astrophysics, has assembled the individual images of the 268 sections into one comprehensive image. Following a calculation period of several weeks, they created a 194 Gigabyte file, into which images taken with different filters have been entered.
"Using the online tool, any interested person can view the complete ribbon of the Milky Way at a glance, or zoom in and inspect specific areas," the university statement said.
An input window, which provides the position of the displayed image section, can be used to search for specific objects, it added.
The astronomers used the telescopes at Bochum university's observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile to gather data for over five years to compile the picture.
The online tool to view the Milky Way photo can be accessed at http://gds.astro.rub.de/