Space-based Infrared Captures Monster at Heart of the Milky Way

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A newly enhanced image from the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope reveals the crowded central region of the Milky Way, inhabited by Sagitarrius A* – our galaxy's supermassive black hole. The new image, which spans a region 2400 light years wide and 1360 light years tall, highlights the galaxy's bright but dusty core, which visible light cannot penetrate.


A mass of stars creates a blue haze at the center of the galaxy. Green, carbon-rich dust glitters in the light of neighboring stars, while warm dust exudes a yellow-red glow. The brightest white feature at the centre of the portrait is a star cluster that orbits Sag A*.

"The black hole came into existence billions of years ago, perhaps as very massive stars collapsed at the end of their life cycles and coalesced into a single, supermassive object," according to Andrea Ghez, professor of physics and astronomy, UCLA.

For years, astronomers speculated that a giant, mysterious force lay at the center of the Milky Way  26,000 light years or 158 trillion miles away, but it wasn't until recently that definitively showed what it was.

Casey Kazan.

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Sources:

newscientist.com
NASA Universe

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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