A picture tells one billion star stories of Milky Way.
Scientists produced the picture by combining infra-red light images from two telescopes in the northern and southern hemispheres.
Astronomers from the UK and Chile gathered the data which was then processed and archived by teams at the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge who, in turn, have made it available to studies around the world.
Dr Nick Cross, of the University of Edinburgh's school of physics and astronomy, said: "This incredible image gives us a new perspective of our galaxy and illustrates the far-reaching discoveries we can make from large sky surveys. Having data processed, archived and published by dedicated teams leaves other scientists free to concentrate on using the data and is a very cost-effective way to do astronomy."
Dr Cross said the archived information on the billions of stars, known as the Vista Data Flow System, will allow scientists to carry out research in future without needing to generate further data.
As well as being published online the image was presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester yesterday and shows the plane of the Milky Way galaxy from Earth's perspective.
It combines data from the UK Infrared Telescope in Hawaii and the Vista telescope in Chile.
The work was supported by government body the Science and Technology Facilities Council.