Have you ever thought, “God, I wish I could feel extremely small and in awe right now”? Do we ever have the solution for you?
After more than a decade of painstaking work, Finnish astrophotographer JP Metsavainio has released an absolutely staggering 1.7 gigapixel mosaic of the plane of the Milky Way galaxy.
Metsavainio has been posting his astrophotography online since 2007, but his work on the mosaic began in 2009, with the photography of various nebulae around the Milky Way as independent compositions.
The total exposure time between 2009 and 2021 is around 1250 hours. (To load the full 11.5MB image in his glory, click here.)
“It took almost twelve years to finish this mosaic image,” Metsavainio wrote on his blog, Astro Anarchy.
“The reason for a long period of time is naturally the size of the mosaic and the fact that the image is very deep. Another reason is that I have photographed most of the mosaic frames as individual compositions and post them as independent works of art.
“That leads to a kind of complex image set that overlaps in part with many non-image areas between and around the frames. I have photographed the missing data from time to time over the years and last year I was able to post a lot of sub images. -mosaic how I prepared them first “.
Stitching the images together was a matter of matching the stars and overlaying them in Photoshop, with minor adjustments between the frames to match the color balance and light curves, he explained.
The resulting image is about 100,000 pixels wide, made up of 234 individual mosaic panels, covering a 125-by-22-degree sky area.
That’s a significant swath of the galactic plane, including around 20 million stars, and the full-size color image measuring 7,000 by 1,300 pixels is truly astonishing. The colors you see represent the emission of ionized elements; hydrogen is shown in green, sulfur in red, and oxygen in blue.
“I think this is the first image to show the Milky Way at this resolution and depth in all three color channels,” Metsavainio told photography website PetaPixel.
It offers a superbly dazzling view of our home galaxy, and one we can’t help but get lost in. If you are not sure where to start, or would like to know more about what you are seeing, Metsavainio has kindly posted a series of pictures of the mosaic on his blog, showing individual nebulae.
We can also wholeheartedly recommend that you visit his portfolio for an inspiring tour of his work. Its 3D animations of nebulae in particular will absolutely fill you with Fernweh for interstellar space travel.