Astro Photography

Finnish astrophotographer took around 1250 hours and 12 years to create a 1.7 Gigapixel of the milky way

Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio spent 1,250 hours over the course of about 12 years creating a single image that reveals the magnificent beauty of the entire Milky Way galaxy.

Back in 2009, Metsavainio began this project, which is a 1.7-gigapixel mosaic of the Milky Way. It took him twelve years to get the whole picture which is around 100,000 pixels wide and has 234 individual mosaic panels stitched together.. The resulting image (which you can see below) captures the entire galaxy, speckled with about 20 million of the Milky Way’s roughly 200 billion stars.

All images below are clickable for full resolution viewing.

The entire Milky Way, as imaged by J-P Metsavainio. (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

So, how could a single image take 12 years?

In his blog, Metsavainio points to “the size of the mosaic and the fact that the image is very deep. Another reason is that I have shot most of the mosaic frames as individual compositions and published them as independent artworks.” In the blog, Metsavainio also includes information about the different cameras and some of the more specific techniques he used to create this image.

The entire Milky Way mosaic with pointed out highlights, created by J-P Metsavainio. (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

Some of the celestial objects in the Milky Way required more exposure than others, as some appeared dimmer and were harder to see. For example, a single supernova remnant took over 60 exposure hours, he explains in his blog.

The California Nebula

An image of the California Nebula (NGC 1499), that’s a part of the much larger Milky Way image created by Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio. (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

This is the part of the sky that Metsavainio captured in his mosaic

While the entire image on its own is stunning, because of the detail Metsavainio was able to capture in this mosaic, there are many “hidden gems” you can spot.

From the Bubble to the Cave

The Bubble Nebula, around 11,000 light years from Earth, can be seen as a tiny pearl-like formation in the middle left. Near the Bubble lies much larger Sharpless 157, which is the bright area at lower left. The Cave Nebula, which is relatively close at only 2,400 light years from Earth, is located on the upper right area of the photo.

Cygnus Constellation

Cygnus is one of the most recognisable constellations in the sky. It contains one of the brightest stars in the night sky called Deneb.
“Constellation Cygnus is an endless source of celestial wonders, both scientifically and aesthetically,” said Metsavanio. “For me, as a visual artist, this area of night sky is very inspiring. There are endless amounts of amazing shapes and structures, I can spend the rest of my life just shooting images from this treasury.”

The Tulip Nebula

Within the Cygnus constellation, resides the Tulip Nebula. The object is also located next to the black hole, or microquasar, called Cygnus X-1.
In the bigger mosaic, the Tulip Nebula can be spotted at the centre right.
“My current toolset is very suitable for this kind of objects, since it is kind of heavily undersampled and that’s good when I need to capture very dim and large objects,” Metsavanio said in October 2020.

The Elephant’s Trunk

The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula is a concentration of interstellar gas and dust within the much larger ionized gas region IC 1396, seen in the image above.

These pieces of the full picture showcase the beauty of celestial objects like the California Nebula, the Pelican Nebula, the Wizard Nebula and more.

The mosaic panels for J-P Metsavainio’s 100,000-pixel image of the Milky Way. (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)
An up-close look at the mosaic panels of J-P Metsavainio’s image of the Milky Way. (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)
The space between Cygnus and Cepheus as part of J-P Metsavainio’s image of the Milky Way. (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

Metsavanio conducts his photography from his own observatory in Finland

All of J-P Metsavainio’s space photography pics are at his site. You can view them all HERE

Kiran Fernandes

Kiran is your friendly neighbourhood tech enthusiast who's passionate about all kinds of tech, goes crazy over 4G and 5G networks, and has recently sparked an interest in sci-fi and cosmology.

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