This composite image of the central regions of the Milky Way, captured by the SOFIA airborne observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, spans 600 light years, providing new insights into how massive stars are forming near the core. Click in the image for a larger view. Image: NASA/SOFIA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Herschel
NASA has captured an extremely crisp infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Spanning a distance of more than 600 light-years, this panorama reveals details within the dense swirls of gas and dust in high resolution, opening the door to future research into how massive stars are forming and what’s feeding the supermassive black hole at our galaxy’s core.
Among the features coming into focus are the jutting curves of the Arches Cluster containing the densest concentration of stars in our galaxy, as well as the Quintuplet Cluster with stars a million times brighter than our Sun. Our galaxy’s black hole takes shape with a glimpse of the fiery-looking ring of gas surrounding it.
The new view was made possible by the world’s largest airborne telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA. Flying high in the atmosphere, this modified Boeing 747 pointed its ...