Astronomers have released a giant survey of the galactic plane of the Milky Way. The new dataset contains a staggering 3.32 billion celestial objects, perhaps the largest such catalog to date. The data for this unprecedented study was obtained using the Dark Energy Camera set up by the US Department of Energy at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
The Milky Way galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars, clouds of gas and dust. Displaying and cataloging these objects for study is a formidable task, but a recently unveiled astronomical dataset known as DECaPS2 reveals a staggering number of these objects in unprecedented detail. The DECaPS2 study, which took two years and collected more than 10 terabytes of data from 21,400 individual exposures, identified about 3.32 billion objects – perhaps the largest such catalog compiled to date. Astronomers and the public can explore the data set here.
This unprecedented collection was obtained using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the 4-meter Victor M. Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) as part of the NOIRLab program.
CTIO is a group of international astronomical telescopes located on the summit of Cerro Tololo in Chile at an altitude of 2200 meters. CTIO’s high vantage point gives astronomers an unrivaled view of the southern celestial hemisphere, allowing DECam to capture the southern galactic plane in detail.
DECaPS2 is an optical and near-infrared survey of the Milky Way plane from the southern side of the sky. The first DECaPS dataset was released in 2017, and with the addition of the new data release, the survey now covers 6.5% of the night sky and extends a staggering 130 degrees. Although this figure may seem modest, it is 13,000 times the angular area of the full moon.
The DECaPS2 data set is available to the entire scientific community and hosted by the Astro Data Lab (NOIRLab project). Interactive image access with pan/zoom inside a web browser is available from Legacy Survey Viewer, WorldWide Telescope and Aladin.
Image: A low-resolution DECaPS2 data image overlaid on an all-sky image. The callout is a full resolution image of a small portion of the DECaPS2 data.
A source: Andrew K. Saydjari et al, The Dark Energy Camera Plane Survey 2 (DECaPS2): More Sky, Less Bias, and Better Uncertainties, The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series (2023). DOI: 10.3847/1538-4365/aca594