The universe is so vast that it would be impossible to map all of it. However, with 383,620 galaxies under its belt, the Siena Galaxy Atlas (SGA) covers a significant portion. The online archive uses data from three Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument Legacy Surveys collected between 2014 and 2017 (known as the DESI Legacy Surveys) to present images and detailed information about what lies in outer space.
The SGA is free for anyone to browse online, but is geared more towards astronomers and scientists due to the technical content. Users of the atlas can find locations, shapes, and sizes of thousands of large galaxies that are close to our own. “Nearby large galaxies are important because we can study them in more detail than any other galaxies in the universe; they are our cosmic neighbors,” John Moustakas, SGA project leader and a physics professor at Siena College, said in a statement. “Not only are they strikingly beautiful, but they also hold the key to understanding how galaxies form and evolve, including our very own Milky Way galaxy.”
The DESI Legacy survey data has helped make the SGA extremely accurate, ensuring that it will become an invaluable resource, especially for those who are seeking to observe specific parts of the galaxy or study samples from across several galaxies. “The public release of these spectacular data contained in the atlas will have a real impact not only on astronomical research, but also on the public’s ability to view and identify relatively nearby galaxies,” says Chris Davis, NSF Program Director for NOIRLab. “Dedicated amateur astronomers will particularly love this as a go-to resource for learning more about some of the celestial targets they observe.”
While it is definitely a data-heavy resource, anyone can enjoy the images. NOIRLab astronomer Arjun Dey remarks about the SGA: “In addition to its scientific utility, it has a lot of pictures of beautiful galaxies!”
You can browse the Siena Galaxy Atlas here.