Among the various activities and projects taking place under the International Year of Astronomy 2009, is GigaGalaxy Zoom, a project undertaken by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The GigaGalaxy Zoom project features three gigantic images that reveals the full sky as it appears with the unaided eye from one of the darkest deserts on Earth. Users can zoom in and explore the night sky, particularly the Milky Way, at an incredible level of detail.
Most of the photographs comprising the three images were taken from two of ESO's observing sites in Chile, La Silla and Paranal.
The first image, taken by Serge Brunier, is an 800 million pixel shot of the Milky Way as seen with the naked eye, but from the privileged observatory at La Silla and El Paranal, where weather conditions are the finest in the world.
The second image, created by Stéphane Guisard, contains 340 million pixels in the center of our galaxy. It consists of 1,200 individual images taken with a hobby telescope with a CCD camera that in total add up to 200 hours of exposure and measures 24,403 x 13,973 pixels. Each image was taken with red, green and blue into three portions which were then assembled.
The third image covers a single degree view of Lagoon Nebula taken with a wide-field camera attached to the 2.2m telescope at the observatory at La Silla. The image contains 370 million pixels; the camera itself has a staggering resolution of 67 million pixels.
With GigaGalaxy Zoom, users can learn more about the many different exciting objects in the three images, such as multicoloured nebulae and exploding stars, just by clicking on them. They can also delve into the starscapes using a "zoomify" tool and explore a magnificently detailed cosmic environment at many scales. download the images.
These three images are also available for download at varying resolutions.