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Super telescope captures sensational image of Andromeda galaxy

If you thought the Milky Way was the bee's knees, wait till you see this unreal high-definition shot of our nearest spiral galaxy neighbor.

Click on this image to see a spectacular 6,000x5,957-pixel image of the Andromeda galaxy. (Click to enlarge.)
Hyper-Suprime Cam Project/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Astronomers have captured a sensational high-resolution image of the Andromeda galaxy located 2.5 million light years (14,696,563,432,959,020,000 miles) from Earth. No illustration, no mock-up -- it's the real deal, and it's breathtaking.

The stunning mosaic comes from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan's Subaru Telescope located atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano. Attached to the facility's 26-foot telescope is a 3-ton 870-megapixel still camera called the Hyper-Suprime Cam (HSC), which features an extremely wide 1.5-degree field of view.

The gigantic camera, which contains multiple lenses around 2.6-feet in diameter, is preparing for a much larger task: a cosmic census. Astronomers plan to use the massive telescope to explore the dark passages of the universe.

"This first image from HSC is truly exciting. We can now start the long-awaited, largest-ever galaxy survey for understanding the evolutionary history and fate of the expanding universe," said Masahiro Takada, a chair for HSC's science group.

Astronomers plan to use the Subaru Telescope to observe hundreds of millions of galaxies, specifically analyzing the various arrangements of each and further exploring the effects of gravitational lensing.

"Such data will allow scientists to map the distribution of dark matter, constrain the nature of dark energy, and search for baby galaxies that were just born in the early universe," Takada noted.