Tour the Milky Way in 3D with NASA’s GLIMPSE360

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If you thought catching Pokemon on Google Maps was the coolest thing to do this week, wait until you get a load of this!

Introducing the GLIMPSE360 project. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has spent the last decade taking over 2 million infrared images of our glorious galaxy, which have been pieced together to form a brilliant three dimensional tour of the Milky Way. While the area photographed is a very small fraction of the nights sky, a mere 3%, the flat shape of our galaxy insures that the images includes more than half of the stars in the galaxy we call home.

The zoomable 360 degree, 20 gigapixel mosaic was debuted at last weeks TED conference in Vancouver, Canada and uses Microsoft’s WorldWide telescope visualization platform to give space fans and astronomers alike the view of the century.

ssc2014 02a Inline Tour the Milky Way in 3D with NASAs GLIMPSE360

3% of the nights sky, but nearly half the stars in our Galaxy (Image:NASA, JPL, Spitzer Space Telescope)

“If we actually printed this out, we’d need a billboard as big as the Rose Bowl Stadium to display it,” said Robert Hunt, imaging specialist at NASA’s Spitzer Space Science Center in Pasadena, California.”Instead, we’ve created a digital viewer that anyone, even astronomers, can use.”

The GLIMPSE isn’t just for fun, either. Using the data collected, astronomers have been able to create the most accurate map of the center of our galaxy to date, and the results have been surprising.

Not only does it appear that our galaxy is larger than previously assumed, the images have also revealed that our galaxy is riddled with bubbles, cavities around massive stars which blast wind and radiation into their surroundings.

The data will eventual lead to a more global image of our galaxy, as Spitzer can even see faint images of the darker, unexplored regions of the Milky Way.

“There are a whole lot more lower-mass stars seen now with Spitzer on a large scale, allowing for a grand study,” Said the co-leader of the GLIMPSE team, Barbara Whitney of University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Spitzer is sensitive enough to pick these up and light up the entire “countryside” with star formation.”

Pop on over to GLIMPSE360, kick back and take a stroll through the stars.

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