The world's largest survey telescope has discovered 96 new open star clusters hidden within our galaxy behind thick clouds of dust. This photo-mosaic pinpoints 30 of them. Since 2009, Europe's Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy – ViSTA for short – has been returning tantalizing images of objects like Flame Nebula here… … And the big scope has peered deeply into the dusty heart of our Milky Way. During its first 5 years of operation, ViSTA’s large mirror – and sensitive near-infrared wavelength detectors – will systematically map the sky… …on 6 major surveys, expected to yield an unprecedented understanding of our galaxy and beyond. ViSTA’s 3 ton camera contains 16 infrared detectors for a combined total image area of 67 million pixels. That’s about 10,000 times larger than the average cell phone or pocket camera. Using its keen infrared sight ViSTA can brush aside cosmic debris to expose these open clusters. Each star in the cluster is about half the mass of our Sun. And it’s thought that open clusters like these are the building blocks for galaxies like our Milky Way. And they hold the story of our galaxy’s formation with their gravitational bonds. Only 2500 such clusters have been discovered; but astronomers believe there could be as many as 30,000 hidden by gas and dust. ViSTA’s discovery marks the first time so many have been found at once. For SPACE.com I'm Dave Brody.
Using its 3 Ton, 67 Million pixel camera, VISTA, the world's largest surveyor of the skies, has peered through dust and debris to locate never before seen open star clusters. It's the first time so many have been found at once.
Credit: SPACE.com/ESO/Music: John Serrie