I don’t do it enough, but when I stop to think about the amazing complexities of our planet Earth – from subatomic particles like quarks to massive, erupting volcanoes – I feel dizzy and bewildered by such impressive and wonderful design and order in a seemingly chaotic world. And that’s just our planet. When you start thinking about everything outside this planet in space and beyond… well, most of it is simply unfathomable for me. But, NASA just released a new online tool that illustrates some of that “unfathomable” galactic design. NASA now offers an infrared map of our “neighborhood”: the Milky Way.
More than 800,000 frames from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope were stitched together to create this infrared portrait of dust and stars radiating in the inner Milky Way.
As inhabitants of a flat galactic disk, Earth and its solar system have an edge-on view of their host galaxy, like looking at a glass dish from its edge. From our perspective, most of the galaxy is condensed into a blurry narrow band of light that stretches completely around the sky, also known as the galactic plane.
In this mosaic the galactic plane is broken up into five components: the far-left side of the plane (top image); the area just left of the galactic center (second to top); galactic center (middle); the area to the right of galactic center (second to bottom); and the far-right side of the plane (bottom). From Earth, the top two panels are visible to the northern hemisphere, and the bottom two images to the southern hemisphere. Together, these panels represent more than 50 percent of our entire Milky Way galaxy.
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