In this spectacular image, observations using infrared light and X-ray light see
through the obscuring dust and reveal the intense activity near the galactic
core. Note that the center of the galaxy is located within the bright white
region to the right of and just below the middle of the image. The entire image
width covers about one-half a degree, about the same angular width as the full
moon. Credit: NASA, ESA, SSC, CXC, and STScI
NASA's Great Observatories Celebrate International Year of Astronomy
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A never-before-seen view of the turbulent heart of our Milky Way galaxy is
being unveiled by NASA on Nov. 10. This event will commemorate the 400
years since Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens in 1609.
In celebration of this International Year of Astronomy, NASA is releasing
images of the galactic center region as seen by its Great Observatories to
more than 150 planetariums, museums, nature centers, libraries and schools
across the country.
The sites will unveil a giant, 6-foot-by-3-foot print of the bustling hub of
our galaxy that combines a near-infrared view from the Hubble Space Telescope,
an infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope and an X-ray view from the
Chandra X-ray Observatory into one multi-wavelength picture. Experts from all
three observatories carefully assembled the final image from large mosaic
photo surveys taken by each telescope. This composite image provides one of
the most detailed views ever of our galaxy's mysterious core.
Participating institutions also will display a matched trio of Hubble,
Spitzer and Chandra images of the Milky Way's center on a second large panel
measuring 3 feet by 4 feet. Each image shows the telescope's different
wavelength view of the galactic center region, illustrating not only the
unique science each observatory conducts, but also how far astronomy has come
Each telescope's contribution is presented in a different color:
Yellow represents the near-infrared observations of Hubble. They outline the
energetic regions where stars are being born as well as reveal hundreds of
thousands of stars.
Red represents the infrared observations of Spitzer. The radiation and winds
from stars create glowing dust clouds that exhibit complex structures from
compact, spherical globules to long, stringy filaments.
Blue and violet represent the X-ray observations of Chandra. X-rays are
emitted by gas heated to millions of degrees by stellar explosions and by
outflows from the supermassive black hole in the galaxy's center. The bright
blue blob on the left side is emission from a double star system containing
either a neutron star or a black hole.
Credit: NASA, ESA, SSC, CXC, and STScI
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The composite image features the spectacle of stellar evolution: from vibrant
regions of star birth, to young hot stars, to old cool stars, to seething
remnants of stellar death called black holes. This activity occurs against
a fiery backdrop in the crowded, hostile environment of the galaxy's core,
the center of which is dominated by a supermassive black hole nearly four
million times more massive than our Sun. Permeating the region is a diffuse
blue haze of X-ray light from gas that has been heated to millions of degrees
by outflows from the supermassive black hole as well as by winds from massive
stars and by stellar explosions. Infrared light reveals more than a hundred
thousand stars along with glowing dust clouds that create complex structures
including compact globules, long filaments, and finger-like "pillars of
creation," where newborn stars are just beginning to break out of their dark,
The unveilings will take place at 152 institutions nationwide, reaching both
big cities and small towns. Each institution will conduct an unveiling
celebration involving the public, schools, and local media.
The Astrophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate supports the
International Year of Astronomy Great Observatories image unveiling. The
project is a collaboration among the Space Telescope Science Institute in
Baltimore, Md., the Spitzer Science Center in Pasadena, Calif., and the
Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.
Images of the Milky Way galactic center region and a list of places
exhibiting these images can be found at: