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OUR BEAUTIFUL UNIVERSE: Outreach to the galaxy centre in this spectacular display of outgassing

Published on Monday, 01 February 2010 10:26
centre of Milky Way
The centre of the Milky Way. (NASA, ESA, SSC, CXC and STScI)

 

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.