Space is an impossibly massive zone that countless stars and planets reside in, and if you want to capture even a fraction of the sky then you’re going to have to approach that challenge with some equally gigantic ideas. Astronomers across the world gathered for a chance to capture a photo of the northern sky according to SyFy, pooling resources over six years to create a 10 trillion pixel image.
Weighing in at an entire petabyte of data–a thousand terabytes to put that into perspective–the final image revealed a wealth of new information. Thanks to the efforts of the DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys, maps of the sky were compiled by multiple observatories: the Dark Energy Camera Legacy Survey, the Beijing-Arizona Sky Survey, and the Mayall Zband Legacy Survey, in combination with the orbiting WISE infrared observatory.
While the photograph taken shows off more than a billion galaxies, the overall aim of the project is to research dark energy and its effects on accelerating the expansion of the universe. By looking at the distribution of galaxies throughout it, Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument observations will analyse the data which will also have the added bonus of creating the largest 3D map of the universe currently in existence.
That project is expected to be completed in 2024, but the survey observations have already begun revealing interesting new information about the universe. New maps of the location of nearby brown dwarfs were created, and two fascinating gravitational lens phenomenons were also discovered. The survey has become an invaluable resource of data for not only professional astronomers, but also for the general public thanks to an interactive viewer that the science team created.
There’s even a chat room available, where you can discuss any of your own interesting observations and discoveries made from examining the gigantic photograph.