The Milky Way In New Light

The Milky Way is where we live, the broadest description of our cosmic address. In this galaxy resides several hundred billion stars like our own. Our star orbits the galaxy about halfway through it's thin disk. At the heart of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole. Spanning outwards from the heart we find tendrils of gas and dust, with stars intermittent.

The heart of the Milky Way over the ESO 3.6m observatory.
The Milky Way to the naked eye appears to be a band of dark clouds across the sky, and has been a significant part of humankind since the dawn of astronomy. Our cosmic home surrounds us in a huge circle, and depending on where and when you view the panorama, you may observe different parts of it.

One telescope cannot accurately show the many different faces of a cosmic structure. Astronomers use different wavelengths of light to map and research the Milky Way.

This is how optical photons show the Milky Way from Earth. The dark tendrils are dust and gas clouds between the galactic center and us.

This rendering is from the emissions of hot gas and magnetic field electrons. These are star forming and supernova remnant regions.
This infrared emission photo shows interstellar dust and star forming regions.
This emission shows the location of neutral hydrogen (HI) in the warm interstellar medium, where new stars will be born.
This emission shows the Milky Way at a higher resolution. The bright patches are the Galactic Center, star-forming regions, supernova remnants, and neutral hydrogen.
The hydrogen molecule is difficult for astronomers to observe, but this image of the Carbon Monoxide molecule shows the location of molecular clouds. 
This image shows the location of stars cooler and less massive than our sun. 
The colors displayed relate the energy of the detected X-rays with the lowest energies in red and highest in blue. The point sources are thought to be supernova remnants.
When atomic nuclei are bombarded by cosmic rays in interstellar clouds, gamma rays are generated. This generations explains the dense emissions from the Galactic Center. The visible point emissions are from pulsars and different background galaxies. 
Astronomers use these photos along with other data to map and understand the galaxy. Some astronomers even pinpoint changes in data over years to identify possible extraterrestrial life.

Image Sources:University of Oregon, NASA

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