Image of the Day: The Hubble takes a stab into the starry heart of our Milky Way

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Apr 5, 2016, 2:47 PM EDT

Travel deep into the sparkling recesses of the universe in this incredible image captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of 500,000 stars shining within the Milky Way's core  Existing at the bustling hub of our galaxy, this star cluster surrounds the Milky Way's central supermassive black hole named Sagittarius A, estimated to be 4 million times the mass of our sun.  Beyond a handful of blue foreground stars seen, this hypnotic congregation is a member of the Milky Way’s nuclear star cluster, the most massive and densest star cluster in our galaxy.  It's so stuffed with stars, it's like having a million suns crunched between us and our nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri. 

Astronomers put Hubble’s infrared vision to fine use to penetrate through the interstellar dust in the spinning disk of our galaxy that obscures this gargantuan star cluster.  Scientists translated the infrared light, invisible to human eyes, into a tapestry of unimaginable beauty.  Red stars are either embedded or shrouded by intervening dust, with dense clouds of gas and dust viewed in silhouette, appearing dark against the brighter background stars.


This mind-blowing picture spans 50 light-years and is a mosaic stitched together from nine separate images via Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. The center of the Milky Way is located 27,000 light-years away, and the blizzard of stars seen in the image is a mere fraction of what still remains hidden, with astronomers estimating nearly 10 million stars in this cluster are too faint to register in this image.

(Via NASA)