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Billions of celestial objects revealed in gargantuan survey of the Milky Way


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PHYS. ORG

Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA)

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This image, which is brimming with stars and dark dust clouds, is a small extract—a mere pinprick—of the full Dark Energy Camera Plane Survey (DECaPS2) of the Milky Way. The new dataset contains a staggering 3.32 billion celestial objects—arguably the largest such catalog so far. The data for this unprecedented survey were taken with the US Department of Energy-fabricated Dark Energy Camera at the NSF's Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, a Program of NOIRLab. Credit: DECaPS2 / DOE / FNAL / DECam / CTIO / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA. Image processing: M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF's NOIRLab)

Astronomers have released a gargantuan survey of the galactic plane of the Milky Way. The new dataset contains a staggering 3.32 billion celestial objects—arguably the largest such catalog so far. The data for this unprecedented survey were taken with the Dark Energy Camera, built by the US Department of Energy, at the NSF's Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, a Program of NOIRLab.

The Milky Way Galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars, glimmering star-forming regions, and towering dark clouds of dust and gas. Imaging and cataloging these objects for study is a herculean task, but a newly released astronomical dataset known as the second data release of the Dark Energy Camera Plane Survey (DECaPS2) reveals a staggering number of these objects in unprecedented detail. The DECaPS2 survey, which took two years to complete and produced more than 10 terabytes of data from 21,400 individual exposures, identified approximately 3.32 billion objects—arguably the largest such catalog compiled to date. Astronomers and the public can explore the dataset here.

This unprecedented collection was captured by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) instrument on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a Program of NSF's NOIRLab. CTIO is a constellation of international astronomical telescopes perched atop Cerro Tololo in Chile at an altitude of 2200 meters (7200 feet). CTIO's lofty vantage point gives astronomers an unrivaled view of the southern celestial hemisphere, which allowed DECam to capture the southern Galactic plane in such detail.

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