21 March 2012
At first glance this new space photo doesn’t look very special, just a few bright stars and a sprinkling of fainter ones. But in fact almost all of those fainter objects are not stars in our Galaxy, the Milky Way. They are actually very remote galaxies, each containing billions of stars.
The telescope behind this incredible photo is called VISTA and it is based in the country Chile in South America. It is the world’s largest telescope dedicated to mapping the night sky. (Astronomers call these ‘survey telescopes’, as they survey large regions of the night sky to look for objects.)
To reveal these very distant and faint galaxies, VISTA spent 55 hours staring at the same patch of the night sky. Over this long period of time, the faint light from the galaxies entered the telescope’s camera, like slowly filling a full bucket of water by collecting drips. By collecting these ‘faint drips of light’, the telescope produced this wonderful view of hundreds of thousands of galaxies in a part of the night sky that normally looks black and empty.
Cool Fact: How many galaxies can you see in this photo? (Click on the image to see it in full.) The photo contains more than 200 000 galaxies in total!