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English: This composite colour infra-red image of the centre of our Milky Way galaxy reveals a new population of massive stars and new details in complex structures in the hot ionized gas swirling around the central 300 light-years. This sweeping panorama is the sharpest infra-red picture ever made of the Galactic core and offers a laboratory for how massive stars form and influence their environment in the often violent nuclear regions of other galaxies. This view combines the sharp imaging of the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) with colour imagery from a previous Spitzer Space Telescope survey done with its Infra-red Astronomy Camera (IRAC). The Galactic core is obscured in visible light by intervening dust clouds, but infra-red light penetrates the dust. NICMOS shows a large number of these massive stars distributed throughout the region. A new finding is that astronomers now see that the massive stars are not confined to one of the three known clusters of massive stars in the Galactic Centre, known as the Central cluster, the Arches cluster, and the Quintuplet cluster. These three clusters are easily seen as tight concentrations of bright, massive stars in the NICMOS image. The distributed stars may have formed in isolation, or they may have originated in clusters that have been disrupted by strong gravitational tidal forces. 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.
|Source||NASA Image of the Day|
|Author||Hubble: NASA, ESA, and Q.D. Wang (University of Massachusetts, Amherst); Spitzer: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and S. Stolovy (Spitzer Science Center/Caltech)|
The NICMOS mosaic required 144 Hubble orbits to make 2,304 science exposures.
|This file is in the public domain in the United States because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that "NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted". (See Template:PD-USGov, NASA copyright policy page or JPL Image Use Policy.)||
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