The Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory have produced a matched trio of images of the central region of our Milky Way galaxy, in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, NASA’s Great Observatories.
This image is composed from three different wavelength view of the galactic center region, illustrating the unique science each observatory conducts. In this spectacular combined image, observations using infrared light and X-ray light see through the obscuring dust and reveal the intense activity near the galactic core.
Each telescope’s contribution is presented in a different colour:
– Yellow represents the near-infrared observations of Hubble. The galactic center is marked by the bright patch in the lower right. Along the left side are large arcs of warm gas that have been heated by clusters of bright massive stars.
– Red represents the infrared observations of Spitzer. The swirling core of our galaxy harbors hundreds of thousands of stars that cannot be seen in visible light. These stars heat the nearby gas and dust. These dusty clouds glow in infrared light and reveal their often dramatic shapes.
– Blue and violet represent the X-ray observations of Chandra. In this image, violet represents lower energy X-rays and blue indicates higher energy. Hundreds of small dots show emission from material around black holes and other dense stellar objects. A supermassive black hole — some four million times more massive than the Sun — resides within the bright region in the lower right.
When these views are brought together, this composite image provides one of the most detailed views ever of our galaxy’s mysterious core.
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