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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

That’s not noise–those are stars

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.


There’s some spectacular new space imagery floating around the Internet and my Twitter timeline these days. And that’s good, because as the owner of a Retina 5K iMac, I am constantly on the lookout for images that are of high enough resolution to be deployed as desktop pictures.

The spectacular Hubble Space Telescope picture of Andromeda—a teeny, tiny segment of it is on this post—is a 17,384-by-5558 pixel (200MB) file that shows part of the nearby Andromeda galaxy. The dots in the image don’t represent noise in a digital photograph. As Phil Plait writes on Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog:

The entire full-res image shows something like 100 million stars. A hundred million! And you can see them, pick them out as individuals, due to Hubble’s extremely sharp vision… It’s incredible. This is an entirely different galaxy, and not only can we see individual stars in it, but hundreds of millions of them.

Then there’s the updated release of one of the telescope’s most famous images—”Pillars of Creation”—showing stars being born in the Eagle Nebula. That one’s also available as a 6780-by-7071 image (33MB).

Not only is this spectacular space imagery peering deep into the universe and allowing to better understand our place in it, but it’s enabled me to create two new items for my Desktop Pictures folder.

As I was writing this, my friend Rob Griffiths was doing the exact same thing. The needs of the Retina iMac display are powerful.

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