The Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III (SDSS-III) has released the largest digital color image of the sky ever made.

The image is 1.2 trillion pixels (you would need something like 500,000 HDTV sets to be able to view it at its full resolution), and over 20 million megabytes. It was created by stitching together millions of  2.8 megapixel images made over the past decade. It contains more than half a billion stars and galaxies, and provides information on their motions and distances.

© M. Blanton and the SDSS-III

For the curious ones, the picture is available online, for free. You will be able to explore it and zoom-in on any part of the nigh sky (you might feel like trying to browse the whole picture, you can forget about it – a lifetime would not be enough).

Together with this new image, astronomers from the Sloan Extension for Galactic Understanding and Exploration (SEGUE) are releasing the largest map of the outer Galaxy ever released.

If you cannot wait to explore, you can check out Sloan’s SkyServer.