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A photographer spent 12 years capturing this Milky Way image – and it’s breathtaking

Published Mar 17th, 2021 3:43PM EDT
milky way mosaic
Image: Yin/Adobe

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What have you been working on for the past 12 years? Whatever it was, I bet it’s not as awesome as this ridiculously awesome Milky Way image by J-P Metsavainio. His work on the composite photo began in 2009 and a dozen years later he has one of the most spectacular works of astronomy art you’ll ever lay eyes on. The image is huge both in its pixel resolution and its ambition, as the photographer had to collect a whopping 234 photos in order to piece together the final product.

As PetaPixel reports, Metsavainio began capturing specific features of the Milky Way with his high-end camera equipment and astronomy accessories. Those images are works of art in their own right, but the composite image that they helped to produce is even more spectacular.

After capturing high-resolution images of all the neat sights he targeted at the start he began snapping images of less interesting parts of the galaxy band. Not every photo can have a stunning subject right in the middle, but all 234 of them were required to create the final composite image. Working on the project over a period of 12 years, Metsavainio eventually upgraded his equipment along the way, but the final image looks very uniform and there isn’t a noticeable difference between images he shot 12 years ago and ones he captured more recently.

“It took almost twelve years to finalize this mosaic image,” Metsavainio explains on his website. “The reason for a long time period is naturally the size of the mosaic and the fact, that image is very deep. Another reason is that I have [shot] most of the mosaic frames as individual compositions and [published] them as independent artworks. That leads to a kind of complex image set witch is partly overlapping with a lot of unimaged areas between and around frames. I have shot the missing data now and then during the years and last year I was able to publish many sub mosaic images as I got them ready first.”

He lays out his entire workflow in a lengthy blog post that includes the final mosaic as well as individual images and a panorama that includes an overlay that shows where each individual image was placed to create the final product. You can check out a scaled-down version of the panorama here, and it measures 7,000 pixels wide. The actual mosaic comes in at a horizontal resolution of 100,000 pixels, which is absolutely massive.

Astrophotography definitely seems like a fun hobby, and people like Metsavainio really take things to the next level with projects like this. It may have taken well over a decade to complete, but it also provides us with a view of the Milky Way as we’ve never seen it before, and that is definitely worth it.

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