Our Milky Way Galaxy
This 360-degree panoramic image, covering the entire celestial sphere, reveals the cosmic landscape which surrounds us.  This image is the first of three very high-resolution images featured in the Giga-Galaxy Zoom project launched by the European Southern Observatory in the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009).   The high quality of the images is a testament to the quality of the night sky at ESO’s sites in Chile, which are the most productive astronomical observatories in the world.

The plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, which we see edge-on from our perspective on Earth, cuts a luminous swath across the image.  The projection used places the viewer in front of our Galaxy with the Galactic Plane running horizontally through the image — almost as if we were looking at the Milky Way from the outside.  From this vantage point, the general components of our spiral galaxy come clearly into view, including its disc, marbled with both dark and glowing nebulae, which harbours bright, young stars, as well as the Galaxy’s central bulge and its satellite galaxies.

This image came about as a collaboration between ESO, the renowned French writer and astrophotographer Serge Brunier and his fellow Frenchman Frédéric Tapissier. Brunier spent several weeks during the period between August 2008 and February 2009 capturing the sky, mostly from ESO observatories at La Silla and Paranal in Chile.  In order to cover the full Milky Way, Brunier also made a week-long trip to La Palma, one of the Canary Islands, to photograph the northern skies.  Once the raw photographs were in hand, image processing by Tapissier and ESO experts helped to convey accurately the night sky as our eyes see it.  The resulting image is composed of almost 300 fields, each individually captured by Brunier four times, adding up to nearly 1200 photos that encompass the entire night sky.

Click on the Image for a much larger version - 3Mb

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