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Space Science

Spitzer's 5-Gigapixel Milky Way 124

James Harold writes "Today NASA unveiled a new infrared mosaic of our galaxy. The result of over 800,000 individual images collected by the Spitzer Space Telescope, it is the largest, highest-resolution, and most sensitive infrared picture ever taken of the Milky Way (and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future). Because Spitzer sees in infrared, it penetrates much farther into the galaxy, revealing previously hidden star clusters, star-forming regions, shocked gases, glowing 'bubbles' and more. The complete mosaic is about 400,000 by 13,000 pixels, and a 180' printed version is being shown at the American Astronomical Society meeting in St. Louis. A zoomable, annotated version of two different variants on the image (as well as some additional information on the science) is available at Alien Earths, a NASA- and NSF-supported education site." The Spitzer survey is already causing a stir potentially bigger than that raised when Pluto was deemed not a planet: two minor spiral arms of the Milky Way may be demoted.
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Spitzer's 5-Gigapixel Milky Way

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  • by nexeruza ( 954362 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @11:34PM (#23647263)
    Wow they took a 400,000 by 13,000 pixel image and compressed it to a 200x200 jpeg to wow us net folks, stellar.
  • Bigger than Pluto? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nebaz ( 453974 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @11:39PM (#23647287)
    The average lay person is not going to care about the status of spiral arms in the galaxy. Everybody learned that Pluto was a planet in grade school. That fact gives the average person a stake in its status. When you ask about a spiral arm, you'll hear "huh?".
  • Accessibility (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @11:43PM (#23647329)
    If this information is owned by the government, it should be free to the citizens, and hence free to google sky, or the other alternatives. Why doesn't this immediately go that direction?

    I understand Google Earth/etc. being bound by paying terrestrial satellite owners for photos, but I would think NASA could get better public support if they were more available in the sky.
    • Thats a very good question indeed.
    • Doesn't nearly all of NASA's images end up being released? I've heard that with Hubble bookings, images are kept private for a year or so while they process, and then send off to whoever booked the Hubble so they can publish findings/analysis first, and it all gets popped onto NASA website.
    • Re:Accessibility (Score:5, Informative)

      by wass ( 72082 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @01:18AM (#23647857)
      I believe all NASA (and I believe US govt funded) astronomical research data that isn't classified is eventually put into the public domain. Eg, all HST data.

      But every mission and every observation has a PI and a team of researchers that have proposed that project, have done a huge amount of homework on why they chose the targets they did, what they hope to observe, and how they will do analysis. The PI's of the project are thereby given exclusive access to their data for a period of time. IIRC, for Hubble it's one year.

      This period of exclusivity is to allow them to get the credit for their hard work in choosing the observation, and to prevent being scooped by fellow academics. It's like a very short-lived patent of sorts.

      IMHO, a period of one year for astro data is a perfectly valid way to satisfy all parties involved. It also puts pressure on the researchers to get their asses in gear and publish, before someone can get at their data. But it lets everybody else use the data for their own purposes after the expiry date.

      Of course there is the question of the data storage and retrieval service, and all the calibrations that need to be done on the raw data, and the effective HOWTO procedures for such calibration. Much of this is available, and for active projects there are help desks. Eg, for each of the sensors on the HST there is a specific help desk to provide assistance explaining how to get and process the data. But for older missions, there are no funds to provide these services. But the data should be there, somewhere. But you're probably on your own to calibrate it properly (or at least find older users of said data that can help you).
      • by v1 ( 525388 )
        This period of exclusivity is to allow them to get the credit for their hard work in choosing the observation, and to prevent being scooped by fellow academics. It's like a very short-lived patent of sorts.

        Was just going to say, you mean "like how the patent system is supposed to work?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by astrobabe ( 533099 )
        As a member of the MIPSGAL team, I'd like to point out that all the data used for the huge image has been public since it was processed. Whilst standard observing programs have a proprietary period of 1 yr (so the PI can get the science done that he designed the observations around), the Legacy programs such as GLIMPSE and MIPSGAL has a zero proprietary period. Legacy programs are selected on their ability to influence astronomy as a whole and provide data which may have additional uses (like I'm actually d
    • Errr... It is. All of it in its full glorious 16+GB raw image data glory. Split convinetly into 16 chunks so that thsoe of us with only a measly 2GB of RAM dont have their computers whimper and die trying to display the images.
    • They're working to get it in to Google Sky. Give it a bit of time... the mosaics are only a few weeks old.
    • nasa do put out a lot of imagary for free. For example a lot of thier sattalite imagary can be viewed using a program they supply called nasa world wind which automatically downloads higher res imagary as you zoom in on a part of the globe.

      Afaict the main stuff google earth buy is the aerial photography which is much more detailed than the satalite images.
  • by sheriff_cahill ( 996608 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @11:44PM (#23647343) [] and launching the viewer will bring up the zoomable image mentioned
  • Link (Score:3, Informative)

    by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @11:48PM (#23647363) Homepage
    The image is here []. Yet again great editing.
  • Link Please? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Anyone got a torrent?
  • by Lord Juan ( 1280214 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @12:00AM (#23647433) Homepage
    But, the images (the huge ones) are right there, here is the direct link to the huge images []
    • Imagine being able to walk down the length of a 180 feet wide image. It's hard to beat that for an opportunity to experience the size and complexity of the Milky Way (except, of course, for a trip out to the desert on a clear night).

      The best part is that even at 180 feet wide, 400,000 pixels yields 185 dpi. That's better than your computer monitor!

      Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be flying down to St. Louis and paying admission to the AAS conference just to see it...not with the price of airline tick
  • by arnoldo.j.nunez ( 1300907 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @12:03AM (#23647463)
    Okay, I realize the tag says !eliot, but when the summary says: Spitzer, penetrates, revealed, and shocked, it makes me think that Slashdot is trying to embed secret messages in TFS.
  • by liquidf ( 1146307 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @12:17AM (#23647531)

    Because Spitzer sees in infrared, it penetrates much farther into the galaxy...
    wow, never thought i would see "Spitzer" and "penetrate" in the same sentance together and *not* be talking about a certain governor
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And here I was thinking I was gonna see hi-res pictures of Eliot's whore with his jizz on it...
  • I found it...interesting that the first commenter in the article about the two arms being demoted took a single comment about astronomy ("Trying to create a picture of the Milky Way is about 40% hard science and 60% imagination") and tried to spin it into a debate on "Intelligent Design."

    Maybe interesting isn't the word I'm looking for.
  • You know you're going to have trouble viewing when downloading a JPEG actually takes a noticeable ammount of time over broadband. IE, MSPaint, Firefox, and a trusty little shareware image editor I use--they all choked on the first hi-res image. The surprise winner? The Windows Picture and Fax viewer that comes with XP. I was even able to zoom in several times, but it too eventually choked.

    The failure of Firefox is a bit of a disappointment here. The Picture and Fax win is surprising since other MS ap

    • Grabbed an image from the center(~80mb)
      Eye of gnome worked fine for me (came with Ubuntu I believe)
      Takes a little while to render the full (zoomed out) view but I'm able to zoom in and move around the image fine
      (core2duo 2gb ram)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tatisimo ( 1061320 )
      It's working fine for me on GQview, on Xubuntu. Konqueror loads it up fine, too. I didn't even try to open it on firefox; I know the image viewing on it sucks! For viewing images on a browser on my windows system, I use K-Meleon. I've often wondered why firefox won't add that handy little advanced zoom in/out feature!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dotancohen ( 1015143 )

      IE, MSPaint, Firefox, and a trusty little shareware image editor I use--they all choked on the first hi-res image
      Eye Of Gnome opens them just fine. It's a great little program, and as a KDE user it's the only Gnome app that I use as a default. I didn't even try anything else yet.
      • Likewise. But bear in mind, EOG took nearly a full gigabyte of RAM to do it.
        • That's actually good. The images are about a gigabyte, so that would be about the minimum possible.
          • Am I the only one who actually can't find the really large images? Could someone post here a link to the page that provides the links for these about-1GB images please?
          • No, it can be done in much less. Even GIMP can chop an image into tiles so you can edit multi-gig images with a small amount of RAM. It's pretty common for sound editors to do this too.

            And since JPEG images are encoded in 8x8 tiles, it's not actually necessary to decode the whole file if you just want to display a small piece.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      IrfanView worked fine for me, but be warned the Images are ~1gb of raw data each so if you don't have at least 1.5GB of RAM your computers going to be hurting on these.
      • by smoker2 ( 750216 )
        I think it's amazing you can fit 2+ GB of data into a 34.8 MB download. That's some compression.
        the files use Adobe RGB 1998 colour space taking up 2.94GB (ssc2008-11a15.jpg), and when converted to sRGB they take up 2.2GB.
        It takes the GIMP around 45 seconds to a minute to open these images on a dual quad core xeon with 12GB RAM. See .sig
        Just for fun I'm rendering this image as a sphere ! 5 minutes so far, and it's at 25% ...
    • Preview took about 15 seconds to load it in OS X 10.4 (on a dual 2.6GHZ dual-core Intel Xeon with 3GB ram), and it was a little chunky at first, but then I had no problem zooming in and scrolling.
  • Epic Freakin' Wallpaper. I wish I had a printer that could do that size for my walls.
    • I got the printer (well, access to one...), but I don't have a room with more than 70m of wall. That's if you want to print it 250cm wide. But somehow I doubt the operator will want to print it for me... Sticking it to a wall is the next challenge...
  • I agree with this guy from the article page:

    "40% hard science and 60% imagination"

    How come NS will print an article on astronomy, which freely admits to being mostly imaginary, but not one about I.D., which is based much more in fact?

    So... umm... imagination! Just use your imagination, everyone! :P
  • Wow (Score:2, Redundant)

    by QuoteMstr ( 55051 )
    And to think that only a century ago, we were debating whether ours was the only "island universe". It's amazing to think what progress we've made in only a couple lifetimes.
    • And all based on essentially two-dimensional observation. It's like having your neck immediately permanently clamped to a chair the moment you're born, and then trying to figure out the three-dimensional size, shape and arrangement of the objects all around you, without ever being able to get up and walk towards them, pick them up, look at them from another angle, and so forth. Very much like Plato's people of the cave, I think, trying to deduce the nature of real objects solely from the shadows they cast
  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Wednesday June 04, 2008 @02:48AM (#23648231)

    "two minor spiral arms of the Milky Way may be demoted."

    I suspected something like this might happen, I just didn't dream that they'd go so far.

    I mean, you have to be just a little suspicious about whether all star-forming arms are on an equal footing when you look at the names. There's Perseus and Sagittarius. Then we get to Scutum-Centaurus, and you have to wonder if the astronomers needed a leg up in the imagination department. And then all doubt vanishes when we get to the fourth arm...Norma. Yes, Norma. Like the girl who couldn't wait to get old enough to disown her parents, legally change her name to Chantal and get a job at the brass-pole ballet.

    You just had to know they were having their doubts about arm number 4.

    On a more positive note, the same bunch of guys who just slammed Scutum-Centaurus and, um, "Norma", are also telling us that they "obtained detailed information about our galaxy's bar, and found that it extends farther out from the centre of the galaxy than previously thought".

    A bar that's closer to the house than you thought can't be a bad thing. Especially when you need to walk home.

    • by Jump ( 135604 )
      Not seeing all 4 arms in infrared light is not new. In fact this has been known for a long time and it just means that those stellar arms are not density waves in the stellar disk. However, they are seen in the distribution of molecular clouds. Basically this means that the Milky Way has two overlapping spiral pattern: a stronger 2-armed mode which is in stars and gas, and another 4-armed mode which is only seen in gas. The 4-arm mode is weaker (as expected from theory) and extends over a smaller radius ran
  • Spitzer's 5-Gigapixel Milky Way
    No thanks, I'm not interested in seeing hires shots of what went on at the Emperor's Club.
  • I live in St. Louis and I'd like to take my kids to the convention center to see this thing. Is it somewhere that it can be viewed by the public, or do they expect full admission prices for three kids under 10?
  • My uncle worked at Ball Aerospace in Boulder where Spitzer was built. He took me on a tour of the place and I got to see Spitzer while it was still in a few pieces. The solid beryllium mirror was a beautiful thing.
  • Could someone explain how they 'build' the images that depict the Milkyway, as seen from OUTSIDE the Milkyway, from these images? Do they actually have parralax measurements for each star, or do they use some frequency-shifts? And how did they do this aprox. 20 years ago, when they already had relativly exact images of the Milkyway, but technology was way more inferior?
  • ...shocked gases...

    I guess they were shocked by seeing the Giant Goatse black hole at the center of the galaxy.

  • I thought this article was about photos on Eliot Spitzer's digital camera...
  • Google, MicroSoft and others are generalizing their map software to pan and zoom through huge astronomical databases such as this. The first two are partnering the massive telescope surveys to manage the petabytes of data to be acquired.
  • I was showing my gf this site. I showed her one, told her it was pink. She said"Of course. all nebulae are pink"
    "Set Course for the nebulae" I started zooming in. "But captain, our shields will be useless!" She almost peed herself.

    Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour, That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned, A sun that is the source of all our power. The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see Are
  • Lots of work! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Hello Slashdotsters,

    I'm one of the lucky admins who had the responsibility of posting these GLIMPSE Milky Way images. This was the single largest release Spitzer has had to date.

    For those people that are having problems downloading the images, keep in mind some of them are HUGE.

    If all you wan is a casual look click on the "Screen-Resolution (900x492): JPEG".

    If you want to see the entire poster there are four links in the orange box in different resolutions:

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.