Nick Risinger traveled 60,000 miles and took 37,440 pictures to create the most wonderful interactive map of the night sky you’ll ever click a mouse on. The 28-year-old Risinger, a native of Seattle, divided the sky into 624 equally spaced areas and then photographed each one through six digital cameras, each equipped with a short telephoto lens and color filter. To find skies dark enough to be untainted by the light pollution we’ve become all too familiar with, Risinger set up his gear in remote areas across the Western U.S. For southern hemisphere coverage he flew to South Africa on two occasions. His father joined him for the entire journey.
The shooting side of the project took him from March 2010 into January 2011. Months of processing time followed until the final 5,000-megapixel image he calls the Photopic Sky Survey was realized.
When you check it out, you’ll start with a wide view of the entire sky. Drag and scroll your mouse over the photo to discover its hidden third dimension. Like magic, you can zoom in and pan around as individual star clusters and nebulae emerge from the starry mist. It’s incredible. And to my amazement, the map zooms and re-draws quickly despite viewing it on my Barney Rubble computer.
A few words of guidance. The two bigger blobs at lower right in the photo above are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. The pink clouds are fluorescing hydrogen gas associated with star-forming clouds of dust and gas called bright nebulae, and the spidery streaks across the bright, starry hub of the Milky Way are dust clouds known as dark nebulae.
Now click the link and enjoy your journey!