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Robert Hurt
Staff, Spitzer Science Center
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. The swaths of green represent organic molecules, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are illuminated by light from nearby star formation, while the thermal emission, or heat, from warm dust is rendered in red. Star-forming regions appear as swirls of red and yellow, where the warm dust overlaps with the glowing organic molecules.

   

 

 
    The 2009 Art of Science Competition was made possible by Student Affairs, the Art Committee, and Robert and Esther Metzner.

 

 

 

 

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