As city folk, we’re blown away any time we head out to the country and are able to see more than a couple dozen stars. So seeing millions of stars in a single image is absolutely mind-boggling.
The European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite is on a mission to produce the most accurate three-dimensional map of the Milky Way and to better understand the evolution of our galaxy. It will do this by mapping 1 billion stars — or about 1 percent of the Milky Way’s 100 billion stars.
On February 7, Gaia Sagittarius I Window (Sgr-I) located only two degrees below the Galactic Center. It’s a particularly dense area of the Milky Way, with 4.6 million stars per square degree.
The photo below covers about 0.6 square degrees, meaning there should be around 2.8 million stars captured. Of course, you don’t have to take our word for it. Just download the photo in hi-res from the ESA and start counting!