Panoramic image of the southern sky shows our galaxy and others beyond

This mosaic of the southern sky was assembled from 208 TESS images. Among the many notable celestial objects visible is the glowing band (left) of the Milky Way, our home Galaxy seen edgewise, the Orion Nebula (top), a nursery for newborn stars, and the Large Magellanic Cloud (center), a nearby galaxy located about 163,000 light-years away. NASA / MIT / TESS / Ethan Kruse, USRA

This striking image shows the vast sea of stars in the southern sky, as imaged by NASA’s planet-hunting satellite, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in its first year of operations.

The image is divided into 13 sectors, each of which was imaged by TESS for nearly a month to collect all of the required data. In total, 208 images were stitched together into this mosaic which shows almost the entire southern sky. The black bars in the image are areas where there are gaps between the detectors in TESS’s camera system.

Across the middle of the image, running from top to bottom, you can see the bright glow of the Milky Way. This is because our galaxy is disk-shaped, and when the disk is seen from edge-on it appears to be a thin white band. The image also shows the Orion Nebula, near the top, and our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, right near the center. You can download a massive high-definition version of the image here to see the many stars in all their glory.

“Analysis of TESS data focuses on individual stars and planets one at a time, but I wanted to step back and highlight everything at once, really emphasizing the spectacular view TESS gives us of the entire sky,” Ethan Kruse, a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow who assembled the mosaic at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

TESS uses the data it collects to hunt for exoplanets. In its first year, the satellite has discovered 29 exoplanets including a baby gas giant, nearby rocky planets, potentially habitable planets, and even a planet where one shouldn’t be. In total, it has collected more than 20 terabytes of data including a further 1000 candidate planets which are currently being investigated.

Having mapped out the southern sky, TESS will now turn its focus north to spend the next year hunting for more exoplanets in the northern sky.

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