Friday, October 2, 2009

ESO's GigaGalaxy Zoom: The Sky, from Eye to Telescope

Through three giant images, the GigaGalaxy Zoom project reveals the full sky as it appears with the unaided eye from one of the darkest deserts on Earth, then zooms in on a rich region of the Milky Way using a hobby telescope, and finally uses the power of a professional telescope to reveal the details of an iconic nebula.

In the framework of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) ESO's GigaGalaxy Zoom project aimed at connecting the sky as seen by the unaided eye with that seen by hobby and professional astronomers. The project reveals three amazing, ultra-high-resolution images of the night sky that online stargazers can zoom in on and explore in an incredible level of detail.

The GigaGalaxy Zoom project thus illustrates the vision of IYA2009, which is to help people rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky.

Most of the photographs comprising the three images were taken from two of ESO's observing sites in Chile, La Silla and Paranal. The wonderful quality of the images is a testament to the splendour of the night sky at these ESO sites, which are the most productive astronomical observatories in the world.

The renowned astrophotographers Serge Brunier and Stéphane Guisard, who are members of the The World at Night (TWAN) IYA2009 project, captured two of the GigaGalaxy Zoom images.

The first image by Brunier aims to present the sky as people have experienced it the world over, though in the far greater detail offered by top-notch stargazing conditions and with the view from both hemispheres. As such, the image provides a magnificent 800-million pixel panorama of the whole Milky Way.

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