Eta Carinae
A small section of the Milky Way photo showing Eta Carinae Lehrstuhl für Astrophysik, RUB

The biggest astronomical image of all time has been released, showing the Milky Way with 46 billion pixels. The image was compiled by astronomers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochu, in Germany, and shows 50,000 new objects.

To view the image, the team had to create an online tool that can be used to scan across and zoom in on different areas of the galaxy. It took five years' worth of observations to put together, with astronomers monitoring the Milky Way looking for objects with variable brightness.

biggest milky way picture
A section of the biggest astronomical picture ever created Lehrstuhl für Astrophysik, RUB

Pictures were taken of the southern sky every night using telescopes at the university's observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Over the five years, the team came across a host of new objects never recorded in databanks before. These include stars where a planet is passing in front and systems where stars orbit one another, obscuring each other intermittently.

In total, 268 individual images make up the photo, which the picture is subdivided into. Each section was photographed at intervals of several days. The researchers compared the images to find the variable objects. After this the image was assembled into one massive picture.

The dedicated online tool can now be used by anyone to view the complete picture. They can also zoom in and search for specific objects. Visit the website here.