There’s really nothing better than an insanely large image, and NASA created a large one of their own, except this isn’t an panorama of a landscape here on Earth. It’s an image of our nearest galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. Astronomers at NASA and Pennsylvania State University used NASA’s Swift satellite to create the magnificent imagery.
The 160-megapixel image consists of “thousands of images” that were assembled into seamless portraits of the main body of the galaxy. This resulted in the creation of the highest-resolution image ever crafted of the LMC. What’s perhaps more impressive, however, is that the image required a cumulative exposure of 5.4 days.
The LMC is about 163,000 light-years away and it orbits our own Milky Way galaxy. It’s also about one-tenth the size of the Milky Way and contains only 1% of the Milky Way’s mass, surprisingly. However, despite the small size of the LMC, they appear in the sky much bigger than it really is due to how close it is to Earth.
The imagery was taken with ultravoilet cameras, which allows astronomers to suppress the light of stars and provide a clearer picture of star formations. No telescope other than those of the ultraviolet variety (like the Swift) can produce such high-resolution wide-field multicolor surveys, which is probably why NASA likes it so much.
NASA also provided a smaller, yet still huge, 55-megapixel image of the Small Magellanic Cloud, which is the second-closest galaxy to use at 200,000 light-years away. The SMC is half the size of the LMC and it contains about two-thirds of its mass, making it a fairly small galaxy, but 55 megapixels never looked so big.