The Visible Universe (the image)

Back in 2019, Max Whitby and I had started work on The Visible Universe (the book), and we planned to create a big mosaic of key parts of the Milky Way. Once that started, we decided to keep going until we’d covered the whole sky. This turned out to be a bigger endeavor than we realized, as it required careful planning of a 153-panel mosaic taken over almost two years from three locations (Chile, Spain, and UK) using the ZWO ASI1600MM with a Samyang 35 mm lens. The final result of this effort gave us the centerpiece image you see below. I like to think of it as “the widest widefield image you can possibly take.” You can read all about this odyssey in our book, or watch our presentation to iTelescope about it, but it was quite a trip.

The full image is 2 gigapixels, and it took about six months to process and stitch together. We gathered data in six color channels: R, G, B, Ha, SII, and OIII. What you see below is a 1/64 reduction of the HaRGB version of the all-sky image, which has projected using an equirectangular projection. (Even at 1/64th size and saved as a JPEG, it’s still 20MB!) In the first version, I’ve labeled the brightest stars and the largest objects, some of which are rarely imaged due to their size and faintness–my favorite is Sh2-245, The Fishhook Nebula. The constellations are overlaid in the second version.

I hope this image gives you a perspective on the night sky that you don’t often see. The relative sizes of deep-sky objects become readily apparent. The Milky Way’s central bulge stands out against the summer constellations. The giant HII regions of Orion, Vela, and Cygnus fill the outer arms of our galaxy. I encourage you to click on the images below to see them full-size and lose yourself in the sky!

The visible universe with the brightest stars and largest objects labeled.
The visible universe with the constellations labeled.

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