Capturing panoramas of the Milky Way, the galaxy in which we reside, might seem like a daunting task considering it is, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, about 100,000 light-years across.
First images of the ‘cosmic web’ reveal hidden dwarf galaxies, but Finnish astrophotographer JP Metsavainio has spent almost 12 years stitching together 234 frames to create a mosaic of 125 degrees of sky. The panorama, which shows 20 million stars, captures the Taurus and Cygnus constellations’ space and is completed on March 16.
“Astronomical photography is one of the most difficult forms of nature photography,” Metsavainio, a professional artist, told CNN Friday. “My mosaic image is generally profound, meaning that it shows extremely dim targets and formations in gas clouds of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.”
Each image in the mosaic is an independent artwork and available to see on Metsavainio’s blog. He claims an image like this has never existed before, which is why he decided to dedicate thousands of hours to the project.
Clear, dark skies away from cities’ light pollution are vital to astrophotography, the photography of astronomical objects, and activity worldwide. Patience is also vital, as it can take hours or even days to capture just one photo over a long exposure.
Metsavainio used a range of modified camera lenses and telescopes at his observatory in northern Finland, near the Arctic Circle. He first uses image processing software to adjust levels and colour before stitching the separate panels together on Adobe PhotoShop, using stars as indicators to match the correct frames.
“The reason I keep doing my slow work is endless curiosity. I love to see and show how wonderful our world is,” he told CNN. “This is lonely and slow work, but every time I see the results, I’m as thrilled as the first time.”
A devoted lover of the night sky, Metsavainio plans to continue his work but with a different lens.
“I have shot the night sky with relatively short focal length optics for the last few years,” said Metsavainio. “In the future, I’ll go back to a longer focal length instrument.”
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