Axel Mellinger's

All-Sky 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 mosaic.

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 White Mountain 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!).

Aitoff projection   polar projection

Click on the images to view them in full size.

Confused by the vast number of stars? Can't find the constellations? Here is a strip centered on the galactic equator with constellation outlines.

panorama with constellations

Click here to see a Virtual Reality All-Sky Panorama!


  1. An article describing the digital processing steps of the film-based panorama is available as HTML for online viewing and PDF for printing.
  2. D. di Cicco, "There's No Place Like Home", Sky and Telescope, Nov. 1999, pp. 137-140.
  3. A. Mellinger, "Die Milchstraße im Computer: Entstehung eines Himmelspanoramas", Sterne und Weltraum, p. 174, Feb./March 2000.
  4. K. Kizer Whitt and A. Mellinger, "The Milky Way from the inside'', Astronomy  29(11), 58 - 63 (2001).
  5. 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.
  6. An article about the new panorama is available on arXiv/astro-ph.


Purchasing prints and high-resolution electronic images


Other images


Would you like to see more astrophotography? Please visit my Astrophotography web site with lots of deep-sky and comet pictures.

Graphics by GIMP    Naperville Astronomical 
Association Site Award

© 2000-2009 Axel Mellinger, Department of Physics, Central Michigan University
Last change: Nov. 4, 2009