NASA has captured an infrared image of the centre of the Milky Way using the SOFIA observatory.
The incredible image shows 600-light years across the galaxy, with incredible detail of the swirling center of gas and dust.
Image: NASA/ SOFIA/ JPL-Caltech/ ESA/ Herschel.
The image is made up of multiple images taken between 1 July and 11 July 2019 by researchers led by Matt Hankins, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech. They were taken with SOFIA, the airborne observatory that can fly into the Earth’s stratosphere to capture the images.
The image has revealed new details about the galactic center that was unable to be captured in previous images.
“Among the features coming into focus are the jutting curves of the Arches Cluster containing the densest concentration of stars in our galaxy, as well as the Quintuplet Cluster with stars a million times brighter than our sun,” said NASA in a statement.
From the image, scientists can also more clearly see the material that may be feeding the ring around the galaxy’s supermassive black hole. 10 lightyears in diameter, this black hole has confused scientists.
“Studying this area has been like trying to assemble a puzzle with missing pieces. The SOFIA data fills in some of the holes, putting us significantly closer to having a complete picture,” said James Radomski, a Universities Space Research Association scientist at the SOFIA Science Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center.