NASA's Great Observatories Celebrate International Year of Astronomy

Nov 10, 2009
In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, NASA's Great Observatories — the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory — have collaborated to produce an unprecedented image of the central region of our Milky Way galaxy. Credit: NASA, ESA, SSC, CXC, and STScI

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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 , an infrared view from the , and an X-ray view from the Chandra X-ray Observatory into one multiwavelength 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 since Galileo.

The composite image features the spectacle of : from vibrant regions of star birth, to young hot stars, to old cool stars, to seething remnants of stellar death called . 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 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, dusty cocoons.

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.

Provided by European Space Agency (news : web)

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User comments : 3

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cybrbeast
not rated yet Nov 11, 2009
Link to the full size images at HubbleSite. Can't understand why the article didn't link to this.
http://hubblesite...8/image/
yyz
not rated yet Nov 11, 2009
Thanks, cybrbeast, for posting the link to full size and alternate pics. Mosaics like this one really need to be seen at or near full resolution to grasp the sheer amount of detail visible. While the 50MB TIFF file may take a few seconds to download via broadband, what you'll see will be worth the (short) wait.

Also annotated images as well as the individual multiwavelength images are available for your perusal. Well worth a look :)
yyz
not rated yet Nov 13, 2009
A paper with some incredible Hubble images used in this mosaic was recently posted ("HST/NICMOS Paschen-alpha Survey of the Galactic Center" links to hi-res paper here: http://arxiv.org/abs/0911.2226 ). The paper has many hi-res images of the full mosaic and closeups of the Sgr A* and Arches cluster regions as well as some wispy filaments seen for the first time.

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