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What do 10 *million* stars look like?

28 Oct 2020, 13:00 UTC
What do 10 *million* stars look like?
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The thing that's hard to grasp, even when you've been an astronomer your whole life, is just how ridiculously full of stars galaxies are.

Certainly when you look at images of nearly any galaxy it looks like a continuous glow, the distance between stars no match for the mind-crushing distance to the galaxy involved. They all blur together.

And even though we live inside a galaxy, the Milky Way, grasping the total population of its stellar citizenry is nearly impossible. After all, when you go outside at night, even at the darkest site you can find, only a few thousand stars are visible. Looking through binoculars helps, but you don't see a big field of view, so again the number is limited.

But then, sometimes, an image comes along that helps. Behold, a vista of our galactic center:

A small section of a huge survey of stars near the center of the Milky Way, the full-resolution image nonetheless has 10 million stars in it. Credit: CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA Acknowledgments: Image processing: W. Clarkson (UM-Dearborn), C. Johnson (STScI), and M. Rich (UCLA), Travis Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Mahdi Zamani & Davide de Martin.

Ye. GADS.

That's a lot of stars. Very roughly ...

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