Skip to main content

Flying Home

Flying Home

The background of the image shows the MilkyWay – the galaxy of which our solar system is just one tiny part. The band of light is created by billions of faint stars, all arranged in spinning disk. Our Sun is just one of those stars. In the lumiere we fly through the Milky Way searching out our own familiar solar system. We’re nearly back!

The PanSTARRS mosaic of the whole sky was used in the Milky Way fly-through segment. This colour image was composed from over 60000 invidual images, taken through green, red and infra-red filters, and stitched together by astronomers from Durham and Germany. Scientifically this image is being used to study how stars within our own galaxy, and galaxies in the Universe beyond, are arrayed across the sky.

The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) is a 1.8m telescope situated at the summit of Haleakala on the island of Maui in Hawaii. What makes Pan-STARRS unique is its large, 3.3~degree diameter field of view which is imaged onto one of the world’s largest (1.4~Gigapixel) digital cameras. From 2009 to 2014 it photographed the entire sky visible from Hawaii twelve times in each of five filters, to look for moving and transient objects, but also to provide one of the largest ground-based surveys of the sky every undertaken (the “3-pi survey”). It also tracked 10 individual pointings continuously throughout the survey to produce some extremely deep images (the Medium Deep survey). The telescope was operated by an international consortium of universities which included Durham. Durham’s science interests are mainly in studying how galaxies and quasars are distributed throughout the Universe.

The planet sequences were generated with Celestia using recent NASA images of the planets’ surface to give them their true texture.