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Thursday, September 21, 2023
Sept. 21, 2023

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Say cheese! Galactic photo shoot captures 3 billion stars


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A galactic photo shoot has captured more than 3 billion stars and galaxies in one of the biggest sky surveys ever.

A dark-energy camera on a telescope in Chile made the observations over two years, focusing on the Southern Hemisphere sky. The National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab released the survey results this week.

Shown in remarkable detail, most of these Milky Way objects are stars. The count also includes small, distant galaxies that may have been mistaken as individual stars.

It’s like taking a group shot and being able to distinguish not only each individual, but the color of their shirt, said lead researcher Andrew Saydjari, a doctoral candidate in physics at Harvard University.

“Despite many hours of staring at images containing tens of thousands of stars, I am not sure my mind has wrapped around the magnitude of these numbers,” Saydjari said in an email.

This latest survey now covers 6.5% of the night sky, according to the researchers. It includes the results of a survey released in 2017 that catalogued 2 billion celestial objects, mostly stars.

With hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, the cosmic catalog is certain to grow. No further updates are planned for this particular survey, Saydjari said, but upcoming telescopes will tackle even larger areas of the sky.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.