Fri October 7, 2011
The Two-Way

Looking Into The Galaxy's Heart (It's Red)

For its popular "photo of the day" feature, NASA gives us a look at the center of the galaxy, in the form of an infrared image — because as I'm sure you already know, infrared can penetrate the dust clouds that obscure the core in the visible spectrum.

This is the area that NASA uses to form ideas about how massive stars are formed, and how they influence other objects.

The image above, taken by the Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer, has a "false color," NASA says, in order to show "the glow of hot hydrogen in space."

Below, you can see an image NASA published in 2008, a view that is less panoramic, and is a composite of a Hubble image and one from the Spitzer Space Telescope survey.

If you really like the newer image, you'd do well to visit the NASA site — where you can see it in its full 3,000-pixel glory. Here's how NASA describes what you're seeing:

The winds and radiation from these stars form the complex structures seen in the core and in some cases they may be triggering new generations of stars. At upper left, large arcs of ionized gas are resolved into arrays of intriguingly organized linear filaments indicating a critical role of the influence of locally strong magnetic fields.

The lower left region shows pillars of gas sculpted by winds from hot massive stars in the Quintuplet cluster. At the center of the image, ionized gas surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy is confined to a bright spiral embedded within a circum-nuclear dusty inner-tube-shaped torus.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.