Astronomy Picture of the Day
APOD: 2005 October 4 - The Milky Way in Stars and Dust
Explanation: The disk of our Milky Way Galaxy is home to hot nebulae, cold dust, and billions of stars. This disk can be seen from a dark location on Earth as a band of diffuse light across the sky. This band crosses the sky in dramatic fashion in the above series of wide angle sky exposures from Chile. The deepness of the exposures also brings to light a vast network of complex dust filaments. Dust is so plentiful that it obscures our Galaxy's center in visible light, hiding its true direction until discovered by other means early last century. The Galactic Center, though, is visible above as the thickest part of the disk. The diffuse glow comes from billions of older, fainter stars like our Sun, which are typically much older than the dust or any of the nebulae. One particularly photogenic area of darkness is the Pipe Nebula visible above the Galactic Center. Dark dust is not the dark matter than dominates our Galaxy -- that dark matter remains in a form yet unknown.
APOD: 2000 January 30 - The Milky Way in Infrared
Explanation: At night, from a dark location, part of the clear sky looks milky. This unusual swath of dim light is generally visible during any month and from any location. Until the invention of the telescope, nobody really knew what the "Milky Way" was. About 300 years ago telescopes caused a startling revelation: the Milky Way was made of stars. Only 70 years ago, more powerful telescopes brought the further revelation that the Milky Way is only one galaxy among many. Now telescopes in space allow yet deeper understanding. The above picture was taken by the COBE satellite and shows the plane of our Galaxy in infrared light. The thin disk of our home spiral galaxy is clearly apparent, with stars appearing white and interstellar dust appearing red.
APOD: 2005 June 5 - A Milky Way Band
Explanation: Most bright stars in our Milky Way Galaxy reside in a disk. Since our Sun also resides in this disk, these stars appear to us as a diffuse band that circles the sky. The above panorama of a northern band of the Milky Way's disk covers 90 degrees and is a digitally created mosaic of several independent exposures. Scrolling right will display the rest of this spectacular picture. Visible are many bright stars, dark dust lanes, red emission nebulae, blue reflection nebulae, and clusters of stars. In addition to all this matter that we can see, astronomers suspect there exists even more dark matter that we cannot see.
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