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30th May 2021

NASA release remarkable picture of ‘downtown’ Milky Way, 26,000 light years away

Danny Jones

NASA release new image of 'downtown' Milky Way

The stunning new image shows what the centre of the Milky Way looks like

In some utterly stunning new images released by NASA, scientists working the Chandra X-ray Observatory – a space telescope sent up into orbit back in 1999 – have compiled decades worth of data to show what the epicentre of the Milky Way looks like.

Obviously, we can’t make hide nor hair of it but you’ve gotta say, it looks darn purdy.

New panorama of the Milky WayCredit: NASA

NASA shared the vertical panorama which gathered images and data from more than 370 different observations made by the Chandra and other telescopes on social media.

In the official article, they described the representation of billions of stars and black holes of millions as “Magnetized Threads Weave Spectacular Galactic Tapestry”. You can, of course, dig into the science yourself if you’re feeling 200 IQ but NASA summarised the impression quite succinctly here:

Daniel Wang from the University of Massachusetts Amherst was involved in the project while working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

He explained that: “What we see in the picture is a violent or energetic ecosystem in our galaxy’s downtown.”

He went on to elaborate that “[t]here are a lot of supernova remnants, black holes, and neutron stars there. Each X-ray dot or feature represents an energetic source, most of which are in the centre.” Mind-boggling really.

The de facto city centre of the Milky Way is approximately 26,000 light-years away, meaning it would take roughly 967,200,000 years to get there. Definitely don’t want the kids in the back for that journey.