At first, it looks like a planet: dark, snow-speckled and slashed down the center by a deep red scar.
But zoom in a little closer, and you realize you’re looking at something much larger than a planet — larger even than 100 billion planets.
This is a new map of the cosmos, compiled from four years of observations by the Pan-STARRS observatory in Maui, Hawaii. Hidden within this mosaic image of the Milky Way (that’s the big, red smear in the middle) and its near cosmic neighborhood are more than 800 million stars, galaxies and roving interstellar objects visible from the observatory’s mountaintop vantage point.
Soon, stargazers around the world will get a chance to study each of those objects (and millions of others) in detail, thanks to what scientists at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UH) have called the biggest release of astronomical data of all time.
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