Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2010 May 30
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 the highest resolution version available.

The Galactic Center in Infrared from 2MASS
Credit: 2MASS Project, U. Mass., IPAC/Caltech, NSF, NASA

Explanation: The center of our Galaxy is a busy place. In visible light, much of the Galactic Center is obscured by opaque dust. In infrared light, however, dust glows more and obscures less, allowing nearly one million stars to be recorded in the above image. The Galactic Center itself appears glowing on the lower left and is located about 30,000 light years away towards the constellation of Sagittarius. The Galactic Plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, the plane in which the Sun orbits, is identifiable by the dark diagonal dust lane. The absorbing dust grains are created in the atmospheres of cool red-giant stars and grow in molecular clouds. The region directly surrounding the Galactic Center glows brightly in radio and high-energy radiation. The Galactic Center is thought to house a large black hole.

Tomorrow's picture: moon ring

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