February 2015

NASA Releases Largest Photo of a Galaxy Ever Taken

Andromeda GalaxyAndromeda Galaxy

Andromeda Galaxy
This image shows a reduced section of the Andromeda Galaxy photograph that was taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

On January 5, NASA released the largest and most detailed photograph of a galaxy ever taken. The photo was captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope from its orbit around Earth. The image shows the Andromeda Galaxy, the nearest major neighbor galaxy to the Milky Way. The massive photo is made up of 1.5 billion pixels, or tiny squares of color, and would take up 4.3 gigabytes of memory on your computer. To view the picture at full size, you’d have to spread it across a grid of more than 600 high-definition television screens.

The panoramic image of the Andromeda Galaxy shows more than 100 million stars that are located 2.5 million light years from Earth. A light year, which is about 6 trillion miles, is the distance that light can travel in one year through empty space. Even at that incredible distance, Hubble was able to capture an extremely sharp image. If you zoom into the photo, you can see each star clearly and distinctly. According to NASA, it’s like if you had a picture of an entire beach and were able to zoom in on each grain of sand.

Until now, astronomers had never seen stars so clearly over such a large area of a galaxy. The Andromeda photo is an important tool for scientists to learn more about the celestial bodies that make up our universe.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B.F. Williams, and L.C. Johnson (University of Washington), the PHAT team, and R. Gendler

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Question 1
What took the huge photograph of the Andromeda Galaxy?

Question 2
About how many stars does the photo of the Andromeda Galaxy show?

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