From IAC: “GALÁCTICA: The largest photo of the Milky Way available on the web”

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Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias – IAC

Apr. 3, 2018
Miquel Serra-Ricart:
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This FECYT-funded project of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) has produced the largest panoramic view of our galaxy without using professional telescopes.


    A digital reflex camera, a telephoto lens, and a night sky renowned worldwide for its quality and darkness. These are the ingredients of GALÁCTICA, an IAC project whose aim is to obtain a gigapan (a giant mosaic) of the Milky Way to be used for outreach. What makes it different from other similar maps of our galaxy is that this is the first time such a map has been produced without relying on the telescopes of large professional observatories.

    ‘Because of the exceptional atmospheric conditions of Teide Observatory, we were able to acquire high quality images,’ notes Doctor Miquel Serra Ricart, the project’s coordinator, as well as being Manager of the Teide Observatory and an IAC researcher. ‘We’re still analysing the final mosaic in search of small objects that we haven’t yet labelled,’ he adds.

    For a year, with a digital camera equipped with a telephoto lens, the team obtained the images that make up the final gigapan. The team has also published 50 images at high resolution of the main objects that form part of our galaxy’s fauna. Serra and his team are, ‘Very enthusiastic about the second part of the project, which take us to the dark skies of Namibia from where we shall complete GALÁCTICA.’

    Instrumentation and observing procedure

    A DSLR full-frame camera (a modified SONY A7S) equipped with a fast telephoto lens (Canon 200 mm f/1.8)was used to build up the panorama. A second camera, a modified SONY A7S (with a 400 mm f/2.8 telephoto lens) was used at the same time to make high resolution observations of 50 objects that form part of the galactic fauna catalogue.

    The two cameras mounted in tracking mode on the Open Outreach Telescope (Telescopio Abierto Divulgación, TAD).

    Open Outreach Telescope Telescopio Abierto Divulgación TAD on Mount Teide at 2,390 metres (7,840 ft), located on Tenerife, Spain.

    This robotic telescope is equipped with a Losmany Titan equatorial mount to compensate for motion caused by the Earth’s rotation and is located at Teide Observatory (Izaña, Tenerife)

    Teide Observatory in Tenerife Spain, home of two 40 cm LCO,telescopes, Altitude 2,390 m (7,840 ft)

    A total of seven months was dedicated to the work, and observations were made only on nights close to new moon. This required 50 nights’ observing, in which 186 hours were needed to produce the panoramic view and 50 hours for galactic fauna objects. The images acquired so far cover 70% of the Milky Way, from the molecular cloud complex of Orion to Antares in the constellation Scorpius. During the second half of 2018, the GALACTICA-S project, funded by FECYT, will map the remaining 30% of our galaxy.

    The GALÁCTICA project has been funded by the Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología (FECYT) of Spain’s Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness.

    The IAC Observatories form part of Spain’s network of Special Scientific and Technical Infrastructures (Infraestructuras Científicas y Técnicas Singulares, ICTS).

    See the full article here.

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    The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias(IAC) is an international research centre in Spain which comprises:

    The Instituto de Astrofísica, the headquarters, which is in La Laguna (Tenerife).
    The Centro de Astrofísica en La Palma (CALP)
    The Observatorio del Teide (OT), in Izaña (Tenerife).
    The Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM), in Garafía (La Palma).

    Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the municipality of Garafía on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, at an altitude of 2,396 m (7,861 ft)

    These centres, with all the facilities they bring together, make up the European Northern Observatory(ENO).

    The IAC is constituted administratively as a Public Consortium, created by statute in 1982, with involvement from the Spanish Government, the Government of the Canary Islands, the University of La Laguna and Spain’s Science Research Council (CSIC).

    The International Scientific Committee (CCI) manages participation in the observatories by institutions from other countries. A Time Allocation Committee (CAT) allocates the observing time reserved for Spain at the telescopes in the IAC’s observatories.

    The exceptional quality of the sky over the Canaries for astronomical observations is protected by law. The IAC’s Sky Quality Protection Office (OTPC) regulates the application of the law and its Sky Quality Group continuously monitors the parameters that define observing quality at the IAC Observatories.

    The IAC’s research programme includes astrophysical research and technological development projects.

    The IAC is also involved in researcher training, university teaching and outreachactivities.

    The IAC has devoted much energy to developing technology for the design and construction of a large 10.4 metre diameter telescope, the ( Gran Telescopio CANARIAS, GTC), which is sited at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos.

    Gran Telescopio Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, SpainGran Telescopio CANARIAS, GTC