A new instrument on Japan's Subaru telescope has enabled astronomers to photograph Andromeda, the Milky Way's neighboring galaxy, in a whole new light.

Called the Hyper-Suprime Cam (HSC for short), the instrument relies on a short focal length and a 900-megapixel sensor to provide a high-resolution, ultra-wide-angle view of its subjects. It's absolutely bonkers — what HSC project director Satoshi Miyazaki once described as "a dream machine for deciphering the mystery of elusive dark energy... Who knows what kind of entirely new phenomena or objects might emerge from this kind of survey?" Pictured here is the HSC's first photograph – a beautiful, sprawling shot of the spiral galaxy Andromeda (click here to see it in very high-res – trust us, it's worth waiting for it to load):

"This first image from HSC is truly exciting," said Masahiro Takada, chair of the HSC science working group at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Japan, in a statement. "We can now start the long-awaited, largest-ever galaxy survey for understanding the evolutionary history and fate of the expanding universe."


[Via Kavli IPMU]