Milky Way Panorama 1.0
Note: the new, all-digital panorama image is here.
By 1996, RAM
prices had dropped low enough to allow the processing of high-resolution digitized
astrophotos on a home PC. My early attempts included contrast stretching
and image stacking, as shown in
this example. Faced with the limited field of view and grain-limited
resolution of photographs taken on 35 mm film, I decided to venture
further into the field of digital image processing and explore the possibilities
of stitching together several images into a single high-resolution
Three years and 51 wide-angle images later, an All-Sky panorama was completed.
The individual photographs were taken on Kodak PJM-2 and PJ-400 film
with a Minolta SRT-101 or XD-5 camera equipped with a 28 mm lens
and riding piggyback on my Super Polaris DX mount. Exposure times
at f/4 were ranging from 30 to 45 minutes. My observing sites
were places as far apart as California's
Range and Cederberg Observatory
in South Africa's Western Cape Province. A special
transformation technique was used to eliminate distortions introduced
by the camera lens. Thanks to
computer processing, the image can be presented in a variety of different
views. Shown here are an Aitoff projection in galactic coordinates (left)
and an equidistant azimuthal (polar) projection (right).
At full resolution (not displayed here for obvious
reasons) the file size is 300 MB.
The image is part of NASA's Multiwavelength Milky
Way poster (the only contribution from an amateur astronomer!).
Click on the images to view them in full
Confused by the vast number of stars? Can't find the constellations?
Here is a strip centered on the galactic equator with constellation outlines.
Click here to see a
Reality All-Sky Panorama!
- An article describing the digital processing steps of the film-based panorama is available as
HTML for online viewing and
PDF for printing.
- D. di Cicco, "There's No Place Like Home", Sky and Telescope, Nov. 1999, pp. 137-140.
- A. Mellinger, "Die Milchstraße im Computer:
Entstehung eines Himmelspanoramas", Sterne und Weltraum, p. 174,
- K. Kizer Whitt and A. Mellinger, "The Milky Way from the
inside'', Astronomy 29(11), 58 - 63 (2001).
- An article about the (film-based) panorama (Star Forming Regions along the Milky Way:
A Panoramic View) is the first chapter in the Handbook of Star Forming Regions, Bo Reipurth (ed.), Vol. I, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 2008.
- An article about the new panorama is available on arXiv/astro-ph.
Purchasing prints and high-resolution electronic
Sky Publishing Corporation
is selling two different poster versions of the panorama:
For details, please visit their online
store and go to the "Posters" product category.
- A galactic projection called "The Milky
Way", showing the sky within +/-40 degrees of the galactic equator
- An equidistant azimuthal projection (called "The Celestial Sphere")
showing the entire northern and southern hemisphere of the sky.
For high-quality custom size prints, check out
Hutech's web site.
- For high-resolution electronic files, please see the notes for the
new digital panorama..
- In 2002, Kosmos published
a star atlas (in German) based on the panorama image.
New 2008 edition:
- English edition published by Firefly Books
Would you like to see more astrophotography? Please visit my
web site with lots of deep-sky and comet pictures.
© 2000-2009 Axel Mellinger,
Department of Physics, Central Michigan University
Last change: Nov. 4, 2009