Scientists Conduct Huge Survey of Milky Way

Astronomers have released a massive survey of the Milky Way’s galactic plane, containing a staggering 3.32 billion celestial objects – arguably the largest such catalog yet. The data for this unprecedented survey was acquired with the Dark Energy Camera at NSF’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The Milky Way contains hundreds of billions of stars, star-forming regions, and dark clouds of dust and gas. Collecting these objects for study is a mammoth task that took two years and yielded more than 10 terabytes of data from 21,400 individual images. Most of the stars and dust in the Milky Way are in its disk — the bright band that stretches across this image — where the spiral arms lie. While this abundance of stars and dust makes for beautiful images like these, it also makes observing the galactic plane difficult. Edward Schlafly, a researcher at the AURA-managed Space Telescope Science Institute, says: “This new survey allows us to map the three-dimensional structure of the Milky Way’s stars and dust in unprecedented detail.”

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