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Wow! This incredible image of the Milky Way took 12 years to create

A section of the 1.7-gigapixel image of the Milky Way created by Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio.
A section of the 1.7-gigapixel image of the Milky Way created by Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio. (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio spent 1,250 hours over the course of about 12 years creating a single image that reveals the magnificent beauty of the entire Milky Way galaxy.

Back in 2009, Metsavainio began this project, which is a 1.7-gigapixel mosaic of the Milky Way composed of 234 individual images all stitched together. The resulting image (which you can see below) captures the entire galaxy, speckled with about 20 million of the Milky Way's roughly 200 billion stars.

The entire Milky Way, as imaged by J-P Metsavainio. (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

So, how could a single image take 12 years? 

In his blog, Metsavainio points to "the size of the mosaic and the fact that the image is very deep. Another reason is that I have shot most of the mosaic frames as individual compositions and published them as independent artworks." In the blog, Metsavainio also includes information about the different cameras and some of the more specific techniques he used to create this image.

The entire Milky Way mosaic with pointed out highlights, created by J-P Metsavainio.  (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

Some of the celestial objects in the Milky Way required more exposure than others, as some appeared dimmer and were harder to see. For example, a single supernova remnant took over 60 exposure hours, he explains in his blog. 

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While the entire image on its own is stunning, because of the detail Metsavainio was able to capture in this mosaic, there are many "hidden gems" you can spot. 

These pieces of the full picture showcase the beauty of celestial objects like the California Nebula, the Pelican Nebula, the Wizard Nebula and more. 

The mosaic panels for J-P Metsavainio's 100,000-pixel image of the Milky Way.  (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

An up-close look at the mosaic panels of J-P Metsavainio's image of the Milky Way. (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

The space between Cygnus and Cepheus as part of J-P Metsavainio's image of the Milky Way.  (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

From the Bubble to the Cave Nebula, imaged by J-P Metsavainio.  (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

IC 405 6 410 area, imaged by J-P Metsavainio.  (Image credit: J-P Metsavainio)

You can see more of Metsavainio's amazing space photography at his website here.

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Chelsea Gohd
Chelsea Gohd

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined Space.com in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.