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A billion pixels worth of Milky Way

A massive zoom-able image by the European Southern Obesrvatory shows just how many stars are in a patch of sky.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

A massive zoom-able image by the European Southern Obesrvatory (ESO) shows just how many stars are in a patch of sky.

Although this isn't the biggest picture the ESO has ever produced, but this image by Stéphane Guisard at the ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile shows only a portion of the 9-gigapixel image — or, according to Slate's Phil Plait, a patch of sky roughly twice the size of that which can be covered by your outstretched hand.

It's around 24,000x14,000 pixels, consisting of three layers — red, green and blue — giving the image both colour and depth — and shows in intricate, zoom-able, scannable detail how the night sky is put together.

Where the sky is clear, you can hardly see any darkness at all: those strange patterns of shadow are actually caused by dust obscuring the stars behind it — answering, at least partially, Olbers' Paradox (which was actually solved some time ago, but it's fun to pretend).

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

And that's only a very small fraction of the stars in our galaxy.

Aside from that, it's rather beautiful to look at.

In fact, if you like, you can order a print from the ESO, available from a modest 60x34.3 centimetres, all the way up to a massive 3x1.7 metres.

You can find the image here. For the best effect, we recommend going full-screen. With a projector.

Via www.slate.com