Spitzer Telescope Sees Busy Galactic Center In a New Light

The center of the Milky Way is hard to see in visible light, because interstellar dust blocks our view. But the Spitzer Space Telescope’s infrared vision can penetrate the dust and see through to our galaxy’s jam-packed core.

This is a newly updated version of the plane of the Milky Way captured by the Spitzer telescope. NASA says the area shown here is immense: Horizontally, it spans 2,400 light years, or 5.3 degrees of the sky, and vertically it covers 1,360 light years, or 3 degrees.

The bright center is the galaxy’s central star cluster, about 26,000 light years from Earth. The green and yellowish areas represent dust associated with star-forming regions, NASA explains.

The glowing galactic center actually represents thousands of stars orbiting a massive black hole, but it is so far away that the light blurs together, NASA explains.

The image is a three-color composite of observations from two instruments on board Spitzer.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory