To mark International Year of Astronomy, the might of NASA’s Great Observatories has been combined to produce a celebratory image of the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. NASA has sent large-format prints of the image to 150 museums, planetariums and schools across the US to celebrate 400 years since Galileo’s first observations.
The image is a montage combining a near-infrared view from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, an infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and an X-ray view from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and will be sent out as a six foot by three foot print, accompanied by separate images using the different wavelengths.
The image is in false colour: red for Spitzer’s infrared contribution, marking glowing dust clouds, yellow for the near-infrared from HST, where stars are forming, and blue and violet for the ultraviolet data from Chandra, marking hot gas.
The whole image covers a patch of sky half a degree across. The centre of the galaxy lies in the white patch just right of centre, while the blue blob on the left is probably a double star system including a black hole or neutron star.