Sky images observed by the SDSS telescope

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Unless otherwise noted, images should be credited to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

First light image [ 100 dpi JPG (159.6 KB), 300 dpi JPG (1.1 MB), 300 dpi PNG (1.6 MB), 300 dpi TIFF (7.1 MB) ]
A small section of the first-light image obtained by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey on the night of May 27-28, 1998. The overall image is over 5,000 times larger than this small piece of the constellation Serpens. The photo was assembled from digital scans taken through separate filters. (The individual colors provide valuable information for identifying the objects.) It also shows stars in our own galaxy (the brighter ones are recognizable by the cross pattern), a half-dozen distant galaxies near enough to show morphological features like disks and rings, and many fainter and farther galaxies, distinguished from stars by their slightly fuzzy appearance.

NGC 6070 [ 100 dpi GIF (952.1 KB), 100 dpi JPG (143.1 KB) ]
The large bright galaxy, called NGC 6070, lies in the constellation of Serpens. It is receding from the Earth with a velocity of about 2000 kilometers per second and is at a distance of over 100 million light years. The blue light in the galaxy comes from recently formed hot stars; the yellowish light comes from cooler, older stars. Several other galaxies are also visible. The point-like images are stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

Palomar 5 [ 120 dpi GIF (843.8 KB), 200 dpi PNG (4.2 MB), 200 dpi TIFF (4.9 MB) ]
This is the globular cluster Palomar 5, which is a cluster of stars orbiting the Milky Way at a distance of 210 thousand light years. Most of the fainter stars in the picture belong the to cluster; the brighter stars are foreground stars elsewhere in the Milky Way.

Mosaic [ 175 dpi GIF (915.5 KB), 175 dpi JPG (731.7 KB) ]
This is a mosaic of a region of the sky 2.5 degrees on a side. Two separate sweeps of the sky were made on successive nights with the 2.5-meter telescope and its mosaic camera. The 6 columns of CCDs in the camera collect data from 6 scanlines on the sky separated by small gaps. By off-setting the telescope a small amount between the two runs, the scanlines from the two runs can be interleaved to form a seamless map of a complete section of the sky.

While this image may look small and unimpressive, consider that the width of the first light image is about the same as the width of one of those 12 vertical strips.

This image is also available as a clickable, zoom-in map.
(Image credit: Stephen Kent/SDSS Collaboration)

Redshift 5.0 quasar [ 75 dpi JPG (173.8 KB), 75 dpi PNG (670.4 KB), 75 dpi TIFF (802.0 KB) ]
The arrow in this image points out the record-breaking redshift 5.0 quasar discovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. That faint red dot of light represents an object that is actually a hundred times as luminous as a typical galaxy. Sky Survey astronomers identified this object as a possible high-redshift quasar on the basis of its exceptionally red color compared to ordinary stars and galaxies. Followup spectroscopy with the ARC 3.5-meter telescope confirmed that this unassuming speck was indeed the most distant quasar known to date.

Redshift 4.9 quasar [ 120 dpi JPG (564.3 KB), 120 dpi PNG (2.1 MB), 120 dpi TIFF (2.5 MB) ]
This newly-discovered redshift 4.9 quasar was "only" the runner-up to the title of most distant quasar ever found (the previous non-SDSS title holder was announced in 1991). However, it demonstrates the excellent performance of the Sky Survey's data analysis pipelines. These automated algorithms can accurately distinguish the light of the faint quasar from the foreground galaxy that can be seen only five arcseconds away.

Redshift 4.75 quasar [ 135 dpi JPG (617.9 KB), 135 dpi PNG (2.4 MB), 135 dpi TIFF (2.9 MB) ]
While this redshift 4.75 quasar may not be the most distant quasar known, it was first among its high-redshift brethren to be identified by Sloan Digital Sky Survey researchers. This photometric image from September can't reveal the most remarkable feature of the quasar, namely that the Lyman-alpha and Carbon-IV spectral emission peaks are unusually narrow compared to an average quasar.

Spiral galaxy NGC 1087 (6.7 arcmin x 4.8 arcmin) [ 100 dpi JPG (64.2 KB), 100 dpi PNG (1.1 MB), 100 dpi TIFF (1.3 MB) ]
The spiral galaxy NGC 1087 is found in the constellation Cetus, and has a recession velocity of about 1520 kilometers per second. This galaxy's most notable physical feature is a short rotating bar-like structure of bright stars straddling the galactic center. Although it has a comparatively low surface brightness, the galaxy shone just a bit more brilliantly in August 1995 when one of its massive stars exploded into a Type II supernova.

M78 nebula (12.0 arcmin x 8.8 arcmin) [ 175 dpi JPG (316.0 KB), 175 dpi PNG (4.6 MB), 175 dpi TIFF (5.7 MB) ]
NGC 2068 (also known as M78) is a reflection nebula in the Orion constellation. Hot young stars in the nebula's center illuminate and (to a much lesser extent) ionize the surrounding gas. Further out, dark clouds of dust prevent much of the scattered light from reaching us, creating a complex pattern of light and shadow. This star-forming region is only about 100,000 years old.

Spiral galaxy UGC 03214 (12.3 arcmin x 8.8 arcmin) [ 175 dpi JPG (379.9 KB), 175 dpi PNG (4.4 MB), 175 dpi TIFF (6.0 MB) ]
The constellation of Orion is home to the edge-on spiral galaxy UGC 03214, which is receding from us at the rate of 4840 kilometers per second (about one-sixtieth the speed of light). The brilliant central bulge stands in stark contrast to the light-absorbing bands of dust clouds in the disk. When interpreting observations, astronomers often need to account for the obscuring and reddening effects of similar dust clouds in our own galaxy.

Redshift 5.74 quasar [ 200 dpi GIF (1.9 MB), 200 dpi PNG (4.5 MB), 200 dpi TIFF (8.9 MB) ]
The arrow in this image points a record-shattering redshift of 5.74. SDSS astronomers identified this faint speck of light as a possible quasar based on its distinctive red color. A spectrum of this object, obtained with the 10-meter Keck telescope in Hawaii, showed that this was indeed a quasar with a most impressive redshift.
(Image credit: Stephen Kent, SDSS Collaboration)

Redshift 6.4 quasar [ 72 dpi GIF (63.4 KB) ]
The red dot in this picture is the most distant quasar ever discovered (at least as of October 2003). The redshift 6.4 quasar is seen at a time when the universe was just 800 million years old. The light-travel time from this object to us is about 13 billion years.

M51: The Whirlpool Galaxy [ PDF (1.4 MB) ]
This 23-panel figure starts with a true-color (g,r,i) figure showing the region of sky imaged by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey as of Summer 2004, centered on the north galactic cap. Subsequent panels zoom into M51 (also known as the Whirlpool galaxy, or NGC 5194,5195) in the constellation Canes Venatici. This galaxy, at a distance of roughly 40 million lights years, is a favorite target of amateur astronomers, and was the first galaxy in which spiral structure was recognized (by William Parsons, Third Earl of Rosse, in 1850). The zoom finishes on NGC 5195, which is being tidally disrupted by its larger companion. Figure courtesy of Mike Blanton, Doug Finkbeiner, David Hogg, David Schlegel, and Nicholas Wherry.