Many of us live in big cities, and even if we don’t, we are quite often living in places bathing in artificial light. Because of this particular type of pollution, observing the night sky can turn into a real challenge. However, in some very special places, the sky can show all of its awesomeness.

French astrophotographer Serge Brunier spent several weeks during the period between August 2008 and February 2009 capturing the sky, mostly from ESO observatories at La Silla and Paranal in Chile. In order to cover the full Milky Way, Brunier also made a weeklong trip to La Palma, one of the Canary Islands, to photograph the northern skies. With a lot of patience, an incredible work and the will to show everyone the sky that surrounds us, he photographed the most beautiful 360-degree image of our night sky. The original image is 800 Megapixels! It is composed of almost 300 fields each individually captured by Brunier four times, adding up to nearly 1200 photos that encompass the entire night sky.

Covering the whole celestial sphere, our Milky Way Galaxy, seen edge-on, goes all the way across the image. Using the picture available at Gigagalaxyzoom (© ESO/S.Brunier), I created this virtual panorama (click and drag the image to navigate in the celestial sphere; use the shift and ctrl keys to zoom in and out):

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Click here for a much more awesome view!

Because an astonishing image never comes alone, you will find below a bonus video by Frédéric Tapissier, based on Serge Brunier’s work. Have a nice journey in our Galaxy!

Of course, I highly recommend you to check Serge Brunier’s website, and his amazing gallery, where there is much more to see!

Video and images used by permission of Serge Brunier.