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Gaze into the heart of a mindblowing 1.7 gigapixel Milky Way mosaic image

By Jeff Spry

If you're having trouble getting motivated for that big Spring project you've been procrastinating over, take a peek at this jawdropping mosaic image of the Milky Way created over the span of 12 years by Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio.

Starting back in 2009, Metsavainio devoted over 1,250 hours to this ambitious project which became a 1.7-gigapixel tapestry of our Milky Way galaxy using 234 separate images arranged together in one hypnotic picture, a feat that captures the cosmic scope of roughly 20 million of the spiral galaxy's 200 billion stars. 

Take a seat and stare into the wonders of the heavens created in mapped colors from the light emitted by a range of ionized elements: hydrogen = green, sulfur = red and oxygen = blue...


"It took almost twelve years to finalize this mosaic image," Metsavainio explains on his blog and official website. "The reason for a long time period is naturally the size of the mosaic and the fact, that the image is very deep. Another reason is that I have shot most of the mosaic frames as individual compositions and publish them as independent artworks. That leads to a kind of complex image set which is partly overlapping with lots of unimaged areas between and around frames. I have shot the missing data now and then during the years and last year I was able to publish many sub mosaic images as I got them ready first."


According to his decade-long system of photography, some of the frames have more exposure time than others.

"There are some extremely dim objects clearly visible in this composition, like a extremely dim supernova remnant W63, the Cygnus Shell," he states on his blog. "It lays about six degrees up from the North America nebula and it can be seen as a pale blue ring. I spent about 100 hours for this SNR alone. An other large and faint supernova remnant in Cygnus can be seen at near right edge of the image."

mosaic 2

Detailed on his site, Metsavainio also shared information regarding his choice of cameras, optical configurations, and some specific techniques used to conjure up this stunning image.

"Up to 2014 I was using an old Meade LX200 GPS 12" scope, QHY9 astrocam, Canon EF 200mm f1.8 camera optics and baader narrowband filter set," he notes on his blog. "After 2014 I have had 10-micron 1000 equatorial mount, Apogee Alta U16 astro camera, Tokina AT-x 200mm f2.8 camera lens and the Astrodon 50mm square narrowband filter set. I have shot many details with a longer focal length, before 2014 by using Meade 12" scope with reducer and after 2014 Celestron EDGE 11" and reducer.

"I do all my mosaic work under the PhotoShop, Matching the separate panels by using stars as an indicator is kind of straight forward work," he adds. "My processing has become so constant, that very little tweaking is needed between separate frames, just some minor levels, curves and color balance." 


To purchase prints, read more about this beautiful Milky Way mosaic, and see more close-ups taken from the large panoramic image, visit Metsavainio's official site and temporary webshop HERE.

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