The project, 14 years in the making, originally captured 2.7 million images throughout the universe, which have been condensed down to a more reasonable sum of 18,000.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission processed more than 15 trillion bytes of data and used four infrared light wavelengths to capture the panorama, just part of which is pictured above.
“Today, WISE delivers the fruit of 14 years of effort to the astronomical community,” Edward Wright, WISE principal investigator at UCLA, said.
The mission led to several new discoveries, including the elusive “Y-dwarf” stars, which astronomers have been searching to spot for more than 10 years. The stars, which are still in a cooling phase, don’t shine like normal stars in visible light, so they couldn’t be viewed without the infrared vision provided by WISE.
The WISE mission found the number of asteroids immediately surrounding Earth to be much lower than originally thought. It also discovered the first known “Trojan” asteroid that orbits the sun in the same path as the Earth.
Other photos obtained from the WISE mission can be viewed in their online gallery.