Professor creates one-of-a-kind sky panorama
Scientists and students worldwide can now see all elements of the night sky at once, thanks to the work of Axel Mellinger, assistant professor of physics at CMU.
Mellinger spent nearly two years and traveled more than 26,000 miles to collect 3,000 individual photographs, transforming them into one panoramic image of the full night sky with the Milky Way galaxy at its center. The panorama is now on display in Dow Science Complex.
Print, broadcast and electronic news sources, including the Houston Chronicle, ABC News and ScienceDaily.com, have reported on Mellinger's project.
"The panorama Axel created is astounding," says Bill Wren, an astronomer at the McDonald Observatory located at the University of Texas at Austin. "There is nothing out there right now that is comparable, especially with this breadth and depth."
To find locations dark enough to capture the images, Mellinger traveled to remote areas in South Africa, Texas and the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Michigan. He then used a mathematical model to merge all the images into a single one 60 to 80 times larger than a typical digital picture.
"I set out to create this image because I wanted to provide a unique view of the night sky around us," Mellinger says.
The high-resolution image makes it more useful for educational and scientific purposes because it allows viewers to see and zoom in on all elements of the sky at once. It provides a much wider field of view than existing images such as those captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, which only display one element at a time.
Mellinger plans to make his panorama available to planetariums around the world.