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150 Gigapixel Sky Image Contains 1 Billion Stars

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the scientists-declare-universe-contains-lots-of-stuff dept.

Space 126

The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers have used two big telescopes to create an infrared survey of the Milky Way that is the largest of its kind: the resulting image has an incredible 150,000 megapixels containing over a billion stars. Something that large is difficult to use, so they also made a pan-and-zoom version online which should keep you occupied for quite some time. These data will be used to better understand star formation in our Milky Way, and how far more distant galaxies and quasars behave." The interactive image is powered by IIPImage which happens to be Free Software and is cool in its own right (right click the image to get help — it has a full set of keybindings for navigation).

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126 comments

Oh my god (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39571921)

It's full of stars!

Re:Oh my god (3, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#39572139)

Question is ... is it an American 'billion' or the same 'billion' as the rest of the world?

Re:Oh my god (1, Troll)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 2 years ago | (#39572231)

People raise this kind of thing a lot when they want to be pedants but in reality "a billion" now is 10^9, regardless of where you are. The Americanisation of English could be viewed as sad - and often I think it is - but that's life.

Re:Oh my god (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572265)

Interestingly, the word "billion" in french stands for 10^12 (10^9 is called a "milliard"). This tends to provoke all sorts of confusion for french students learning english (and, I imagine, the reverse as well).

Re:Oh my god (3, Informative)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 2 years ago | (#39572313)

the word "billion" in british english means 10^12 to a lot of people too - hence the comment i replied to. before i went into science it meant 10^12 to me, as well, but spend long enough in science and you begin to see just how few people are aware of that - and it seems to get fewer each year.

Re:Oh my god (3, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#39572727)

It would be nice if people would stop being stupid and we could actually say 10^12 in a news article and not get slack-jawed stares. That would solve a lot of this silly ambiguity.

Re:Oh my god (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 2 years ago | (#39572851)

Haha that would certainly be good. Until then we can all agree to use "a thousand millions" and "a million millions". The sheer irritation of typing all of that out - assuming that journalists won't add some key binding to automate it - will trigger a drive to ensure people know what 10^9 and 10^12 mean. Then we can slowly push them towards 10^{12}, which lets us type 10^121x without ambiguity. A few years down the road we could all be happily writing and reading LaTeX in news articles and do our bit against the dumbing-down of the internet...

Re:Oh my god (1)

mZHg (2035814) | about 2 years ago | (#39572991)

Or maybe use SI prefix: kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta, etc :)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SI_prefix [wikipedia.org]

Re:Oh my god (2)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 2 years ago | (#39573757)

Yeah but then you get people playing games like using megaseconds to measure a year. (A year is very approximately 30*pi megaseconds, if you don't mind shitty approximations.)

Re:Oh my god (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#39581175)

Yeah but then you get people playing games like using megaseconds to measure a year.

I have some medicine whose dosage is "1000 mg".

(A year is very approximately 30*pi megaseconds, if you don't mind shitty approximations.)

Ah, I always wondered why people say "year round".

Re:Oh my god (2)

jc42 (318812) | about 2 years ago | (#39573133)

... Then we can slowly push them towards 10^{12}, which lets us type 10^121x without ambiguity. A few years down the road we could all be happily writing and reading LaTeX in news articles and do our bit against the dumbing-down of the internet...

Well, lotsa luck with that plan. I'd guess that, for the mass media, it'll always be understood that any number with more than 3 digits (or any non-digit chars) will baffle 90% of their readers. So the editors with rewrite them in words that aren't well defined, but don't scare the huge majority of their readers.

Of course, this is /., so we can probably reduce that 90% to 80%. ;-)

(And WTF does "quintillion" mean, anyway? What standards body defines such terms? No, dictionaries aren't standards bodies, and they don't all agree on such terms above "million". They don't even agree on which terms are defined, much less what they mean. ;-)

Re:Oh my god (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 2 years ago | (#39573777)

I've always thought "quintillion" was a number people use when they can't understand how big a number is. Or "quadrillion", which I'd guess originally meant 10^24 or something like that. Maybe "quintillion" was 10^30.

Re:Oh my god (1)

networkBoy (774728) | about 2 years ago | (#39574583)

I go with metric shitton when it's a mind bogglingly big number, and long(or imperial) shitton when it's a little bigger than that.
-nB

Re:Oh my god (4, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#39572937)

the word "billion" in british english means 10^12 to a lot of people too - hence the comment i replied to. before i went into science it meant 10^12 to me, as well, but spend long enough in science and you begin to see just how few people are aware of that - and it seems to get fewer each year.

Or a little thinking (not too much) can realize that a million-million makes no sense in this context.

1-million-million is 1,000,000,000,000 (10^12).

This image is 150,000-million, or 150,000,000,000.

If 1 billion referred to was defined as million-million, it's easy to see that there would be more stars than pixels in the image by over 6 stars to 1 pixel.

OTOH, using it as meaning 10^9, it means there's 1 star for ever 150 pixels, which seems to make MUCH more sense.

Re:Oh my god (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 2 years ago | (#39573735)

There is this, as well, but it involves taking the extra few seconds or so to estimate whether the number seems reasonable. Though I have to say that the controversy makes me wonder if there are millions of people in Britain who think that their national debt (£900bn or thereabouts) is a thousand times worse than it is, given that the British media - universally, so far as I've noticed - describe such large debts in "billions" (10^9) and "trillions" (10^12).

Re:Oh my god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39577613)

Though I have to say that the controversy makes me wonder if there are millions of people in Britain who think that their national debt (£900bn or thereabouts) is a thousand times worse than it is,

I would be quite surprised if there are millions of people in Britain that are aware of their national debt, at all.

Re:Oh my god (0)

aiken_d (127097) | about 2 years ago | (#39574749)

...and it's just inconvenient, not having a word for 10^9. "Six hundred fifty three thousand million" is incredibly awkward to parse. At least, for an American.

Re:Oh my god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39574899)

... fortunately us non-Americans have the word "milliard" for this occasion.

Re:Oh my god (1)

expatriot (903070) | about 2 years ago | (#39575733)

http://oxforddictionaries.com/words/how-many-is-a-billion [oxforddictionaries.com]

In British English, a billion used to be equivalent to a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000), while in American English it has always equated to a thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000). British English has now adopted the American figure, though, so that a billion equals a thousand million in both varieties of English.

The same sort of change has taken place with the meaning of trillion. In British English, a trillion used to mean a million million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000). Nowadays, it's generally held to be equivalent to a million million (1,000,000,000,000), as it is in American English.

Re:Oh my god (3, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 2 years ago | (#39572535)

[Carl Sagan voice]
Milliards and milliards of stars.

Doesn't have quite the same ring.

Re:Oh my god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39574007)

That's because he didn't, and I'm quoting from the article here, "embiggen" it.

Re:Oh my god (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#39572947)

Interestingly, the word "billion" in french stands for 10^12 (10^9 is called a "milliard"). This tends to provoke all sorts of confusion for french students learning english (and, I imagine, the reverse as well).

The local TV quite often mistranslates "billion" when they talk about the US national debt. :) They make the US look really bad if you don't notice the absurdity of the mistranslated number, which most of the common folk don't. Should fire those guys and hire someone who actually knows English, anyway.

Re:Oh my god (2)

jc42 (318812) | about 2 years ago | (#39573227)

The local TV quite often mistranslates "billion" when they talk about the US national debt. :) ... Should fire those guys and hire someone who actually knows English, anyway.

Except that English-language dictionaries don't agree on the meanings of any number words above "million". And there is no official standards body for the English language. Some other languages have such a body, notably French, but not English. And hiring people who pick one of a list of inconsistent definitions and declare it their "standard" is the process that led us to the morass that is the English-language "common speech".

As others have pointed out, scientific/engineering/LaTeX notation is the only actual working solution. But most of the media's editors know that this will scare most of their readers, so they edit it into words that don't have precise meanings.

Re:Oh my god (4, Informative)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | about 2 years ago | (#39572395)

It's written in English, so it is most likely using the short-scale (American system, as you call it). The U.S. has always used the short scale system, and the U.K. (and almost all other English speaking countries) have used it since 1974 [wikipedia.org] .

The long system is hardly used any place outside of Europe. So, this is one of the strange cases where the U.S. and the U.K. use the same system, and it's the system used by the majority of the world. In this case, it is France/Italy/Germany/Spain/Portugal/Netherlends that insist on using their own system.

Re:Oh my god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39573173)

Add Sweden to that list, and probably a few more.

Re:Oh my god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39573677)

You forgot Poland!

Re:Oh my god (4, Informative)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#39572437)

If by "American" billion you mean "English" [wikipedia.org] billion, than yes. Since Slashdot is an entirely English speaking site, it is most appropriate to use the English word for 10^9... which is billion.

Re:Oh my god (1)

fatphil (181876) | about 2 years ago | (#39578261)

Your use of the definite article implies that the word milliard doesn't exist. Which is news to me.

Re:Oh my god (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#39572529)

Giga is 10^9 pixels, so it would have to be an american billion.(10^9) - it would be a bit hard to get a British Billion (10^12) in that size of picture.

(and be able to count them.)
In the British system, 10^9 is called a Milliard, and I think 1,000 british Billions is called a Billiard. (I am not sure how much a snooker would be.
A Williard is the amount of money that the former head of Bain Capital has invested in the Cayman Islands

Anyway are there other objects in the image besides stars? (nebulas, galaxies, comets, planets ...

Re:Oh my god (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 2 years ago | (#39572759)

Anyway are there other objects in the image besides stars? (nebulas, galaxies, comets, planets ...

Yes. Now wouldn't it be great if we could share links to a coordinate and zoom level? They kind of missed one big detail to make this useful.

Re:Oh my god (1)

Chakra5 (1417951) | about 2 years ago | (#39573089)

Yes. Now wouldn't it be great if we could share links to a coordinate and zoom level? They kind of missed one big detail to make this more useful.

ftfy Let's give credit where it's due. That's quite a picture as is. I found it quite entertaining my self. Would be nice to have a share-able coordinate system though. perhaps you would put that together then?

Re:Oh my god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39573631)

I would be impressed if they managed to fit 10^12 stars in 1.5 * 10^11 pixels...

Re:Oh my god (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#39572235)

Perhaps a silly question... Why do a lot of the stars when you zoom in you get a black dot in the middle...
I mean if they were a planet. 1. so many of them shouldn't be almost directly in the middle. 2. Those planets would be HUGE (or a rogue planet eclipsing the star (still why then are all of them in the center) So that seems unlikely.

Re:Oh my god (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#39572815)

Either what jcgame69 said, or it's intentionally blacked out so that you can actually see the area around the star (otherwise it would be a big bright flare and you'd have no detail around it)

Re:Oh my god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572829)

How insignificant we are.

That's Big! (3, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#39571933)

Assuming 8 bits per pixel, a 150,000,000,000 pixel image would be 419GB.

Re:That's Big! (1)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#39572033)

I'm sure they use some compression to bring the size down a bit.

Re:That's Big! (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#39572085)

Well sure, but I didn't want to hazard a guess as to the compression ratio they got.

Re:That's Big! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572463)

The dark matter compresses extremely well...

Re:That's Big! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572043)

That would take quite a while to upload to facebook

Re:That's Big! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572099)

Assuming 8 bits per pixel, a 150,000,000,000 pixel image would be 419GB.

Your new computer math is intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:That's Big! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572125)

And you thought the walk down the street to the chemists was big.

Re:That's Big! (5, Interesting)

SureshotM6 (1539779) | about 2 years ago | (#39572271)

The source is a 91.6GB TIFF file. The filename on the server is in some of the CGI requests.

-> curl -I http://djer.roe.ac.uk/vsa/vvv/v5.tif [roe.ac.uk]
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Wed, 04 Apr 2012 15:42:27 GMT
Server: Apache/2.2.21 (Debian)
Last-Modified: Sat, 24 Mar 2012 16:13:29 GMT
ETag: "f61e88-16e808414a-4bbff6bf3ed80"
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Content-Type: image/tiff
Content-Length: 98382135626
Proxy-Connection: Keep-Alive
Connection: Keep-Alive

Re:That's Big! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572609)

Can anyone download and resave this to something more reasonable. The only >TIF available otherwise is 190 some odd megs and isn't very good for zooming in. I was thinking maybe around a few gigs. I asked the people hosting it about this and never got a response.

I just want something decent for offline use.

Re:That's Big! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39579053)

Damnit they removed the file! Did anyone happen to grab it?

Re:That's Big! (4, Informative)

mikael (484) | about 2 years ago | (#39572457)

Raw CCD sensor data is usually more than 8 bits per channel (or colour filter). 16 bits per pixel is used for professional cameras, but those sensors use Bayer format for red, green and blue. Telescopes just place different colour filters over the entire sensor and correct for different levels of sensitivity.

Re:That's Big! (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#39572835)

Erm, would this even be a visible light camera? It would make more sense to me if this was some other spectra and is just false color.

Re:That's Big! (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | about 2 years ago | (#39573461)

The summary says it's an infrared survey of the sky. So I'm guessing 16bit with an infrared filter (and obviously an infrared sensitive CCD).

Re:That's Big! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39574567)

I have no idea how you did this calculation. At firstI thought you confused bits with bytes. Then I thought maybe you meant 8 bits per channel. Then I just came to the conclusion that you made it up.

Re:That's Big! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39574743)

Ah yes, you did mean 8 bits per channel. Makes more sense now.

Just Flippin Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39571937)

love it

Where can I download this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39571959)

It would make such a great wallpaper for my 250ft monitor.

Re:Where can I download this? (4, Interesting)

networkBoy (774728) | about 2 years ago | (#39572185)

Was just looking at that and thinking...
How much would it cost to get a photo quality print made that is 9 feet tall and long enough to wrap around my entire den at my house? That would be the best ever wallpaper.

Re:Where can I download this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39574733)

Cost is no object when you're aiming to impress the ladies, my friend.

3D version? (3, Funny)

cavok (154569) | about 2 years ago | (#39572055)

Why this is not in 3D yet?!?

Re:3D version? (4, Insightful)

JTsyo (1338447) | about 2 years ago | (#39572143)

Would you even be able to tell the difference between things lightyears away without having your two points of view much further apart that 2 sides of Earth orbit?

Re:3D version? (1)

Xiterion (809456) | about 2 years ago | (#39572427)

There are other ways to get depth information, especially in studies like this. Various techniques such as those mentioned here [wikipedia.org] can be used to fill in at least some of the missing data. Then you can provide the viewer with virtual points of view that are many light years apart to allow perceiving the galaxy in stereo. And to answer GP's question, probably because there's an immense pile of other data to sort through to get that depth information. Sadly, we don't yet have the equivalent of Kinect to give us depth maps along with the image.

Re:3D version? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#39572307)

Walk outside at night. Tada! the entire universe in 3D (ok, a little less than half of it, but still).

Re:3D version? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572389)

Look out of the window - the 3D version is projected in the sky every night .

Re:3D version? (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 2 years ago | (#39573871)

That only works if you live in the middle of the desert on top of a big hill and your house is a big dome with very clean windows. Otherwise there's all these buildings, clouds, lights and bird shit getting in the way.

Re:3D version? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39573961)

they're waiting for the 3rd release... Stars 3D!

Puny humans (-1, Offtopic)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 2 years ago | (#39572061)

Tell me again about your "personal relationship" with the being that created all of that?

Re:Puny humans (0, Offtopic)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 2 years ago | (#39572123)

Tell me again about your "personal relationship" with the being that created all of that?

Sorry but what does size of the universe have to do with that? You seem to have a lack of self esteem. Again, I'm not trying to force you to change your beliefs but I have to question the logic of your statement. One could argue that the size of the universe displays the awesome and limitless power of the almighty and the ability of the almighty to notice individuals within the scope of that creation. To me, that is awe inspiring.

Re:Puny humans (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572157)

Blah blah blah, keep your stone-age mumbo-jumbo to yourself, Churchy.

Re:Puny humans (-1, Offtopic)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 2 years ago | (#39572391)

My lack of self-esteem (or other name-calling) notwithstanding, you do realize that you're positing something that is many orders of magnitude beyond a water molecule in your toe having a personal relationship with you, don't you? To me, that's not awe-inspiring, it's simply delusional.

Re:Puny humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572635)

God != Universe. He created it, but is not it. Your example fails.

Re:Puny humans (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#39572879)

Clearly those stars are not all out there. There's just a big shell around us with holes poked through!

(... that was a joke, by the way)

Re:Puny humans (-1, Offtopic)

gv250 (897841) | about 2 years ago | (#39572195)

You've correctly identified one of the central mysteries of Christian faith. It is impossible to believe that someone who created and manages that large of a system gives a rat's ass what happens to you or me.

Yet, He does.

Happy Easter.

Re:Puny humans (0)

mikael (484) | about 2 years ago | (#39572571)

We used to have these sort of philosophical debates in RE and Biology.

RE: Maybe God is the sum of all conscious / sentient thought in the universe. Everything else just obeys the laws of physics and can juat be left alone to tick along like clockwork.

Biology: How do we know something is "alive"? At the time, we used definitions like being able to reproduce, consume food and die. Then the answer was, it contained DNA, genes and enzymes that could interact.

Re:Puny humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572697)

He, the male god, also cares so much He created cancer. Hope you're lucky and don't get it.

1 in 150 pixels is a star! (2)

crow (16139) | about 2 years ago | (#39572145)

What I find most surprising is that they report over a billion stars with an image containing 150 billion pixels. That's a much higher density that I would have expected.

I guess that my intuition in such things isn't very good, which, not being an astronomer, isn't surprising.

Re:1 in 150 pixels is a star! (4, Informative)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 2 years ago | (#39572253)

If you read up on Olber's paradox you'll find it's even actually a significantly lower density than you might expect...

Re:1 in 150 pixels is a star! (1)

s0litaire (1205168) | about 2 years ago | (#39572387)

it's probably more like 200 Billion stars in 150 Billion pixels (It's just the light's not reached us yet...)

Re:1 in 150 pixels is a star! (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#39572929)

... or are suitably dim compared to the stars we DO see on it, that they are not detected. The universe has quite a large dynamic range.

And that's only this galaxy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572249)

There are likely as many galaxies in the observable universe as there are stars in this galaxy.

Doughnut Stars (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572347)

Why do some of the stars look like they've got holes in them?
http://djer.roe.ac.uk/fcgi-bin/iipsrv.fcgi?FIF=/data/vsa/vvv/v5.tif&CNT=1&SDS=0,90&JTL=11,86696 [roe.ac.uk]

Re:Doughnut Stars (2, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 2 years ago | (#39572441)

A large massive object, like your mom, placed in front of the star can act like a gravitational lens.

Re:Doughnut Stars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39573059)

http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2765711&cid=39572303

"The sensor is supersaturated due to the star's brightness."

Re:Doughnut Stars (4, Informative)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#39573105)

The sensor is supersaturated due to the star's brightness.

[If this works, I'm going to become a karma whoring god]

Re:Doughnut Stars (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | about 2 years ago | (#39575279)

This post is my way of resisting the temptation to mod you -1 Troll. It will also keep you from being arrested in Arizona. You should thank me.

Black dot in the center of stars? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39572505)

Does anyone know why almost all stars (it can be seen easier in big ones) have a black dot in the middle?

Re:Black dot in the center of stars? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 2 years ago | (#39572831)

too bright. For some reason, super-white is rendered as black.

Re:Black dot in the center of stars? (1)

simcop2387 (703011) | about 2 years ago | (#39573419)

This is pretty typical of CMOS sensors, you can see it happen on a digital camera if you try hard enough (usually need a laser).

missing one important feature (1)

jcgam69 (994690) | about 2 years ago | (#39572669)

Awesome images and a great app, but it could be improved by allowing users to mark interesting features. The data set is too big for researchers to visually scan it all.

A sense of scale (3, Interesting)

adenied (120700) | about 2 years ago | (#39573395)

A billion stars seems like a lot but general consensus is that the Milky Way alone has 300 +/- 100 billion stars. So at best this is like 0.5% of the galaxy. I just read about the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey looking at 300,000 galaxies and planning on hitting 1,000,000 eventually. The number of stars out there is truly mind blowing for us puny humans. It's really impressive if you stop to think about it.

How many? (1)

PeterAitch (920670) | about 2 years ago | (#39574993)

A billion? - I kept counting forty-two. Then again, since it's not the whole Universe, maybe it was a only a subset like, say, two? Seriously, though, very impressive. As Adams understated, "Space is Big". Yep...
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