Our Galaxy, in the infrared

One of my preferred sources for stunning astronomical images is surely APOD (Astronomical Picture of the Day). It certainly does a good job in making you aware of the fact that almost every day there is something interesting from the world of astronomy – something that even (let’s say) ordinary people (without a specific scientific knowledge) can admire…


The image of Galactic center in infrared. Clicking on the image takes to an enlarged version (truly beautiful, but be careful that it may be heavy to load on slow connections)

Credit: Hubble: NASA, ESA, & D. Q. Wang (U. Mass, Amherst); Spitzer: NASA, JPL, & S. Stolovy (SSC/Caltech)

As an example, some days ago I stumbled upon this picture, very beautiful indeed. This image is really intriguing since is in fact made by a collection of several hundreds of different images. What we can see here is the center of our own Galaxy, in the infrared band. Since infrared is not blocked by the heavy concentration of dust and gas of the central zone of our Galaxy, as the ordinary visible light does, it is much more indicated for this kind of researches.

The image that appeared on the APOD website and here reproduced is actually made by a composition of more than two thousand images, taken by the instrument called NICMOS on board of the Hubble Space Telescope. The field of investigation does extend for about 300 and 115 light-years, in the two directions, and it has been taken with a resolution so great that even structures large about twenty times our Solar System turn out to be visible…!

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