From photos of Pluto and its moons to constantly expanding catalogs of images of our planet, NASA's releases seem to be never-ending lately. The latest epic space image, however, comes from German astronomers from Ruhr University Bochum. At a massive 46 billion pixels and a unwieldy 194 gigabytes, the image unseats the previous record holder for the largest photograph of space: NASA's 1.5 billion-pixel Hubble photograph of Andromeda.
Taken from one of the world-famous observatories in Chile's Atacama Desert, where air is thin (and consequently, atmospheric distortion is low), these images still look through more atmosphere than the Hubble did. But the clarity of this photograph doesn't seem to be hampered by the difference. Of course, the size of the image makes it difficult to download. And most computers that could download it couldn't even handle opening the file.
Thankfully, viewing the image can be done via an online tool created for the task. I could be on slow Internet at the Starbucks cafe I'm currently at, the website could be a bit slow due to increased traffic, or the tool might simply be slightly clunky and bogged down, but in any case, exercise patience to look at the file (and do remember: it's huge).
This image doesn't exhibit the same types and variations of color found in other composite images of space, however, because astronomers used a narrow-band filter to aid in identifying and counting variable objects (objects with fluctuating brightness). After counting more than 50,000 such objects, the project seems to have been a success with the added benefit of creating a new record.
And did we mention this image wasn't nicely cropped? It's interesting, however, to note the ways that scientists have to gather and stitch images together. The odd format of this image is certainly evident of the process used to create it (one that included combining 268 sections).