From 2010 to 2014, a Hawaiian telescope collected two petabytes of data from the night sky (that’s 15 zeros, for those wondering).
Now those images have been compiled into Static Sky, a map of the entire universe as seen from the observatory.
“It’s the best snapshot of the whole sky up to this point,” said astronomer Eugene Magnier to The Maui News. Magnier works at the University of Hawaii’s Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (aka Pan-STARRS), which captured the images.
The Pan-STAARS telescope is relatively small, but with a resolution of 1.4 billion pixels it has the largest astronomical camera in the world. With it, astronomers have found new streams of stars, supernovas, quasars from the early universe and even lonely planets (free-floating objects formed without orbiting a star). All of this raw data and the accompanying images will be released to the public in May 2017.
But the team just released Static Sky, a complete map of the visible universe compiled from half a million exposures. In the above image, which is available for download, you can see the structure of the Milky Way in the bright yellow ring. “The researchers say that if it was to be printed at full resolution, it would stretch 1.5 miles wide, and probably still require a magnifying glass to see the finest details hidden within,” wrote New Atlas.
“What we’re releasing is basic astronomical infrastructure,” said Chambers in a video about the project. “It’s catalogs of stars and galaxies, and people will use that in a whole variety of ways that I can’t even imagine now.”
The most important discovery so far?
“So far at this moment, no asteroid is scheduled to hit the Earth in the known future,” said Magnier to The Maui News.
Back to finding aliens, then.