NASA Just Released the Most Detailed Photo of Outer Space Ever Taken

This image, captured with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the largest and sharpest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy — otherwise known as M31. This is a cropped version of the full image and has 1.5 billion pixels. You would need more than 600 HD television screens to display the whole image. It is the biggest Hubble image ever released and shows over 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disc stretching across over 40 000 light-years. This image is too large to be easily displayed at full resolution and is best appreciated using the zoom tool.

It’s huge.

That’s what you’re going to say after seeing this crystal-clear image of the universe. The picture of the Andromeda galaxy, the nearest spiral galaxy to our own, is comprised of a mind-boggling 1.5 billion pixels and was snapped from 2.5 million light years away by the powerful Hubble Space Telescope.

The composite image is just a small section of the galaxy. Dazzling and jaw-dropping, the picture shows more than 100 million stars and allows astronomers to see individual stars in the galaxy for the first time.

To give you a better idea, the full picture consists of nearly 8,000 exposures taken from 411 locations and speeds through a 61,000-light-year-long stretch of galaxy. Each of those white dots is a sun.

It’s so big that it requires 600 high-definition televisions to see the whole image, according to USA Today.

What am I looking at?

This is the largest and sharpest image ever compiled of the Andromeda galaxy, the closest spiral galaxy to our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

This is a tiny portion of a very large sky. The image below shows the portion of the galaxy captured in the interactive panoramic image.

The image below shows the portion of the sky captured in the panorama with the moon as a reference to size if viewed from earth. If it were possible to view Andromeda this clearly from earth, the centre part of the galaxy would look approximately the same size as the moon.

This enormous image was created by the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT), a group of researchers working to map approximately one third of the Andromeda galaxy’s star forming region.

Because Andromeda is “only 2.5 million light-years from Earth”, it is possible to capture much more detailed images of our nearest spiral-galaxy neighbour than of other galaxies routinely photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

This is the first time astronomers have been able to see individual stars from a spiral galaxy in such a broad context.

What can you spot?

The biggest and brightest stars in the image are likely to be stars from our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Individual stars in the Andromeda galaxy only become distinguishable at higher zoom levels.

Viewing the full resolution image at the highest zoom possible (see below) makes it clear just how many individual stars are visible in the image.

With keen eyes it’s possible to spot a variety of features including background galaxies, stelar clusters and dust lanes.

Explore below to see what you can find.

How was the image created?

The survey includes 7,398 individual exposures which are “stitched” together to create highly detailed composite images like this one.

It took more than three years to capture all the images used in the panorama which shows the galaxy in natural visible-light colours. Total exposure time for all the images put together was 394 hours.

The full resolution composite image is 69,536 x 22,230 pixels, a total of 1,545.8 mega-pixels. To put that into perspective, viewing this image at its full resolution you would need the equvalent of nearly 750 high-definition TV screens (1080p).