See 100 Million Andromeda Galaxy Stars in the Largest Hubble Photograph Ever

A detail from the Hubble Space Telescope's largest photograph ever, which depicts the Andromeda galaxy. Photo: NASA.

NASA has released yet another stunning photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, and this time it’s the largest image ever captured by the 25-year-old satellite: an incomprehensible, don’t-even-try-to-download-it 1.5 billion pixel–wide shot of the Andromeda galaxy.

A composite image made up of 7,398 separate exposures, the massive photograph provides a sparkling view of a portion of Andromeda, the closest neighbor of the Milky Way, which is home to our solar system. (Close is a relative term: the spiral galaxy is still about 2.5 million light years away.)

The photograph covers some 61,000 light years, and clearly depicts more than 100 million stars, a feat that NASA equates to “photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand.” It is the first time astronomers have been able to observe individual stars from a far-off galaxy over a contiguous area as large as this.

The Hubble Space Telescope's largest photograph ever depicts the Andromeda galaxy. Photo: NASA.

The Hubble Space Telescope’s largest photograph ever depicts the Andromeda galaxy. Photo: NASA.

To view the whole full-sized photo at once, you would need about 600 HD televisions, which is impractical at best. Luckily, a zoomable version is available at the Hubble website.

Earlier this week, NASA offered up another photographic gem to astronomy lovers, releasing a new photograph of the Pillars of Creation, initially observed by Hubble in 1995 (see “NASA’s Stunning Pillars of Creation Takes Space Photography to New Heights“). More photographs are expected to be released during the telescope’s 25th-anniversary celebrations, which should kick off in earnest in April.

Check out a video tour of the groundbreaking photograph below:

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