The New 83 Megapixel Photo Of Our Sun Is One Of Five Astonishing Hi-Rez Space Images You Must See And Download
A few weeks ago I wrote about a ground-breaking new 83 megapixel photo of the Sun taken from half way between Earth and the Sun on March 7, 2022 by the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft.
It’s a beautiful image that, if you zoom in, shows our star’s filaments and flares in stunning detail. Wow!
There are some great photos coming to us from space all the time—including just a few days ago from NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter—but there are some others that you have just got to see.
While we wait for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Vera Rubin Observatory’s 3.2 gigapixel camera (the largest digital camera ever created) to come online later this year, here’s our pick of the best high resolution space images around—and where you can download them for free:
1. VISTA’s 9-gigapixel mosaic of the central Milky Way (2012)
Thought the Sun image was ultra hi-rez? This image of the core of our Milky Way galaxy measures a stunning 108,200 x 81,500 pixels and contains nearly nine billion pixels. It was taken by the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) wide-field reflecting telescope in Chile, which has a 4.1 metre mirror. The image is a combination of thousands of images taken through three infrared filters.
Ready to look back in time? The Hubble Space Telescope has taken some incredible images of the deep sky over the years, many of which were used to assemble this mosaic of the distant universe that contains 265,000 galaxies that date back a mind-boggling13.3 billion years. It’s a combination of almost 7,500 separate Hubble exposures over 16 years.
3. Green Bank Telescope’s 1.4-gigapixel radar image of Tycho Crater on the Moon (2021)
Last year saw the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia release this extraordinary close-up of one of the Moon’s most obvious craters. You can see it with your own eyes on the southern polar area of the Moon, with this stunningly detailed image covering a 200 x 175 kilometer area. It’s actually a radar image obtained using the GBT and antennas from the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) in Socorro, New Mexico.
4. VISTA’s 800-megapixel Milky Way panorama (2009)
Here’s another stunning image from VISTA, this time encompassing the night sky as seen from both the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere. Published in 2000 as ninth as part of the project, it shows the galactic plane, with the bright galactic core in the centre of the image.
5. Hubble’s 1.6-gigapixel mosaic of the Andromeda Galaxy (2015)
The most distant object you can see with your naked eyes at around 2.5 million light-years, the Andromeda galaxy (M31) is our sister galaxy and contains around a trillion stars. You can see it with binoculars (and even naked-eye if you’re in a really dark place) between September and March, but also in this, the largest and sharpest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy, by the Hubble Space Telescope. It shows just a small section of the disk, which nevertheless contains over 100 million stars stretching across over 40,000 light-years.