The Orion Constellation is quite a sight to see but when rendered in a 2.5 gigapixel photo it just takes your breath away. This new fully navigable image of the constellation took 5 years to capture, 500 hours to edit, and 42 hours to process.
It was executed by astrophotographer Matt Harbison, who says on his site that he first began thinking about this impressive project all the way back in 2013. However, it took thousands of photos taken over several years to come together to achieve this mesmerizing final image.
On his site, Harbison described how his fascination with stars started early. “I suppose the best thing to say is that I could identify the familiar symmetry of Orion at a young age,” Harbison wrote. “I viewed it through rustling leaves as a child on camping trips with my parents and grandparents. I looked for it when my Mom signed me up for Boy Scouts, and where I looked through my first tiny telescope at Skymont Boy Scout camp.”
To achieve his dream of capturing the constellation with unprecedented beauty, Harbison used the QHY 16200 CCD mono camera. The new camera would allow him to capture images to a 1.6-pixel scale of the constellation Orion.
“I was certain this would reveal the true nature of that space- behind the clouds, behind the colors,” he said. “This would become my ORION Project: Five years. 2,508 individual images, 500+ hours of integration, lots and lots of patience.”
Harbison went on to describe how he encountered many problems on his journey, such as balancing sky conditions that differ from night to night, continual hardware issues, and challenging weather conditions in East Tennessee. But what really caused this project to take five was finding a computer powerful enough to process his super image, something that did not happen till August 2020.
“The new computer is an AMD Threadripper with 24 cores and 256GB of memory,” Harbison said. Lucky for us, it did happen in the end and we can now all enjoy his glorious photography.