The photo may just look like a bunch of stars, but what you're looking at is the largest and most detailed photo of our galaxy's center, ever. The nine-billion-pixel image was created by the European Southern Observatory which stitched together thousands of photos take by its VISTA infrared survey telescope.

The infrared telescope allowed researchers to bypass all the space dust and gas that usually block stars in our galaxy's center. According to Wired, this image contains 10 times more stars than any previous Milky Way study and "will allow scientists to perform important statistical analyses of the color, temperature, mass, and ages of the different stars." And since the center of the Milky Way contains old stars, it also help scientists understand how our galaxy evolved.

Of course, the above images are scaled down versions of the real thing, which, if printed out, would be as tall as a three-story building. If you want, you can download the full 24.6 gigabyte version here.

[Astronomy & Astrophysics via Wired]