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Galactic Center: NASA's Great Observatories Examine the Galactic Center Region

  • A new image of the center of the Milky Way combines data from NASA's three Great Observatories.

  • In this image, X-rays from Chandra are blue and violet, near-infrared emission from Hubble is yellow, and Spitzer's infrared data are red.

  • Large prints of this image were distributed to some 150 U.S. planetariums, science centers and others as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 activities.

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.

In this spectacular image, observations using infrared light and X-ray light see through the obscuring dust and reveal the intense activity near the galactic core. Note that the center of the galaxy is located within the bright white region to the right of and just below the middle of the image (labeled Sagitarrius A when you roll your mouse over the above composite image). The entire image width covers about one-half a degree, about the same angular width as the full moon.

Each telescope's contribution is presented in a different color:

  • Yellow represents the near-infrared observations of Hubble. They outline the energetic regions where stars are being born as well as reveal hundreds of thousands of stars.
  • Red represents the infrared observations of Spitzer. The radiation and winds from stars create glowing dust clouds that exhibit complex structures from compact, spherical globules to long, stringy filaments.
  • Blue and violet represents the X-ray observations of Chandra. X-rays are emitted by gas heated to millions of degrees by stellar explosions and by outflows from the supermassive black hole in the galaxy's center. The bright blue blob on the left side of the full field image is emission from a double star system containing either a neutron star or a black hole.

When these views are brought together, this composite image provides one of the most detailed views ever of our galaxy's mysterious core.

Fast Facts for Galactic Center:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/UMass/D. Wang et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/D.Wang et al.; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSC/S.Stolovy
Release Date  November 10, 2009
Scale  Image is 32 by 16 arcmin
Category  Normal Galaxies & Starburst Galaxies, Milky Way Galaxy
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 17h 45m 36s | Dec -28° 55´ 58.8"
Constellation  Sagittarius
Observation Date  03/29/2000 - 07/19/2007
Observation Time  26 days 3 hours
Obs. ID  658,944-945, 1561, 2267-2296, 2943, 2951-2954, 3392-3393, 3549, 3663, 3665, 4500, 4683-4684, 5360, 5892, 5950-5954, 6113, 6363, 6639, 6640-6646, 7034-7048, 7345-7346, 7554-7557, 8214, 8459, 8567
Instrument  ACIS
Color Code  X-ray (Blue, Purple); Optical (Yellow); IR (Red)
Distance Estimate  About 26,000 light years
distance arrow
Visitor Comments (26)

Universal mean Beyond your inspiration.

Posted by Kyaw Kyaw Moe on Saturday, 12.12.15 @ 23:42pm

Absolutely amazing. No way we are alone.

Posted by Collin grantham on Friday, 06.14.13 @ 09:37am

No person in their right mind would want to get close to the 4 million solar mass black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, except for some Cosmologists who think they can go through the "singularity" and come out on the other side somewhere else in the Universe. Good luck fellas, you're gonna need it!

Posted by Gregg Grider on Monday, 06.3.13 @ 19:53pm

It is really wonderful. And I am very happy with this achievement of NASA. I want to know how the space looks in 3d.

Posted by Rakesh B Kasangeri on Wednesday, 08.25.10 @ 10:32am

It appears to me as if the X-ray portion of the image shows a faint jet coming up from Sagittarius A. Of course, it could be just other hot excited gases that's not associated with Sagittarius A. I don't know if further analysis has been done to determine one way or the other.

Would a lack of radio jet emission be considered enough to rule out such a possibility? Could it still be a remnant of a jet in the not too distant past?

Posted by David Halliday on Tuesday, 01.12.10 @ 10:15am

It looks like the center of the milky way is very light. If you lived on a planet in the middle of the milky way, would there ever be night darkness?
Where can I learn more about this?

Posted by Mike on Monday, 12.14.09 @ 15:14pm

Dear Manuel,
Careful analysis of radio and infrared images has taught us where the center of the galaxy is.
P. Edmonds for CXC

Posted by P. Edmonds on Wednesday, 12.9.09 @ 13:38pm

Dear Madhu,
We won't ever know what's happening now, because of the light travel time. But, it's interesting that the further out we look, the more we can see into the Universe's past.
P. Edmonds for CXC

Posted by P. Edmonds on Wednesday, 12.9.09 @ 13:36pm

Unfortunately, UV images don't probe the area close to the center of the galaxy because of very strong absorption by gas and dust.
P. Edmonds for CXC

Posted by P. Edmonds on Wednesday, 12.9.09 @ 13:35pm

Dear Mark Ballington,
That's an interesting idea. The detail is fine, but it's not that fine.
P. Edmonds for CXC

Posted by P. Edmonds on Wednesday, 12.9.09 @ 13:32pm

Dear José Roberto,
Thanks. There isn't evidence in these images for jets generated by the black hole. It appears to be too inactive for such jets to appear, unlike the case for some large black holes in other galaxies.
P. Edmonds for CXC

Posted by P. Edmonds on Wednesday, 12.9.09 @ 13:29pm

Hi, How do we know the center of the galaxy is in Sagitarius and not say in Gemini constelation direction?

Posted by manuel on Friday, 11.27.09 @ 00:22am

Wonderful and attractive pictures.

Posted by RAKESH B KASANGERI on Monday, 11.23.09 @ 06:08am

Amazing, you folks are doing a great job to humanity.
One question - if this is what it looked like so many light years ago, how do we know what's happening now?
Will we ever know?

Posted by Madhu on Monday, 11.23.09 @ 04:52am

This is an awesome picture. I've seen the infrared galaxy core pic before, but I've never seen the x-ray infrared and visible all combined. There should be a picture of the core in ultraviolet to add to this also.

Posted by True Radiant Free emissary on Sunday, 11.15.09 @ 16:32pm

What a wonderful. And I guess, If this is only the center of the milky way and our planet is more little, What a little we are in this universe.

Posted by Lizeddy on Sunday, 11.15.09 @ 12:18pm

A wonderful composite image. The detail is very fine. I wonder if it is possible to detect the disturbance in dust and gas, made of objects passing through them?

Posted by Mark Ballington on Saturday, 11.14.09 @ 04:41am

Dear Paul,
The stars visible in the galactic center image are moving in various orbits around the supermassive black hole. In terms of galactic motion the black hole is effectively stationary, while out here in the solar system - in the galaxy suburbs - we're swinging around the center of the galaxy as the arms rotate.
P. Edmonds for CXC

Posted by P. Edmonds on Friday, 11.13.09 @ 08:44am

Absolutely outstanding pictures, thank you so much for allowing me to see.

Posted by Gordon Musson on Friday, 11.13.09 @ 05:10am

WOW. I'm sorry, no other words describe it.

Posted by Michele on Thursday, 11.12.09 @ 22:34pm

What a beautiful picture.

I read a while back a book on our galaxy and it said that the black hole in the center of our galaxy is four light years in diameter and the closest stars to it travel around it at 200 miles per second. This has also been stated in various astronomy programs on Cable Television

Thanks so much to the Chandra team for their hard work to educate us lay people about our most marvelous universe.

Marvin L. S.

Posted by Marvin L. S. on Thursday, 11.12.09 @ 19:17pm

love the pic, awesome, my guess it's moving clockwise as viewed from above we are on the side view obviously, upward and away from us. Just a guess based on her structure.

Posted by spacermike on Thursday, 11.12.09 @ 18:28pm

Absolutely amazing.

Posted by Byron Pearce on Thursday, 11.12.09 @ 16:52pm

Wonderful image. Can we distinguish the gas jets streams from the black hole at the center?
José Roberto

Posted by siqueira on Thursday, 11.12.09 @ 14:56pm

Just wonderful
Thank you

Posted by Lawrence Migdale on Wednesday, 11.11.09 @ 11:28am

If you could produce a three dimensional version of this portion of space how would it look? In a three dimensional box which way is the black hole moving through space?

Posted by Paul Schurr on Wednesday, 11.11.09 @ 09:53am

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