NASA release striking picture of Milky Way's 'downtown', 26,000 light years away

·2-min read

A striking new picture of the Milky Way has been released by NASA.

The picture is of the galaxy's violent, super-energised 'downtown' and is a composite of 370 observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The pictures have been taken over the past two decades and depict billions of stars and black holes in the centre or heart of the Milky Way.

A radio telescope in South Africa contributed to the image, with astronomer Daniel Wang from the University of Massachusetts Amherst working on it while stuck at home during the pandemic.

"What we see in the picture is a violent or energetic ecosystem in our galaxy's downtown," Mr Wang said.

"There 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."

This busy, high-energy galactic centre is 26,000 light years away. That means if you caught a lift on the space shuttle discovery it would take roughly 967,200,000 years to get there.

Chandra, which was launched in 1999, is in an extreme oval orbit around Earth.

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In 2019, Chandra and telescopes in China, Spain and Hawaii discovered a black hole so big that scientists said it should not exist.

The black hole was pictured 15,000 light-years away from Earth and had a mass 70 times greater than the Sun.

And on Friday a team of scientists from the International Dark Energy Survey (DES) released a new dark matter map that covers a quarter of the southern hemisphere's sky.

Dark matter is unobservable from Earth, but scientists pieced the map together by looking at how light from far away galaxies has been distorted on its way to Earth.

The presence of dark matter would bend the rays coming towards us.

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