Two of the biggest space telescopes have combined forces to create a HUGE panorama of the center of the Milky Way galaxy. This sweeping, composite color panorama is the sharpest infrared picture ever made of the Galactic core. Revealed in the image are a new population of massive stars and new details of complex structures in the hot gas and dust swirling around, created by solar winds and supernova explosions. The image shows an area about 300 light-years across. Click here for options in seeing this image in small, medium or super-sized extra large resolution! Click here for a stunning movie showing the location and more detail of this image in visible light. Astronomers at the American Astronomical Society meeting pointed out the actual galactic center is in the large white region near the lower right side of the image. If you need something to keep you occupied for awhile, try counting the number of stars in this image!
More about this image…
This image provides insight into how massive stars form and influence their environment in the often violent nuclear regions of other galaxies. This view combines the sharp imaging of the Hubble Space Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) with color imagery from a previous Spitzer Space Telescope survey done with its Infrared Astronomy Camera (IRAC). The Galactic core is obscured in visible light by intervening dust clouds, but infrared light penetrates the dust. The spatial resolution of NICMOS corresponds to 0.025 light-years at the distance of the galactic core of 26,000 light-years. Hubble reveals details in objects as small as 20 times the size of our own solar system. The NICMOS images were taken between February 22 and June 5, 2008.