This Is What The Center Of Our Galaxy Looks Like

This new, unprecedented image of the Milky Way shows that our galaxy’s core is a pretty tumultuous place.

The compiled image of photos taken by the European Space Agency’s x-ray satellite XMM-Newton (above) spans 1,000 light-years in the center of the galaxy, and shows dying stars, powerful winds, hot gas and, most notably, a supermassive black hole.

The galactic black hole, dubbed Sagittarius A*, and its surrounding emission are located in the brightest central region of the image.

Black holes don’t emit light. But as the objects that surround Sagittarius A* in the Milky Way’s center are pulled in by the black hole’s strong gravitational grasp, the interaction emits light at various wavelengths, including x-rays.

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After analyzing the image, an international team of astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics has not only concluded that the center of the galaxy is a dramatic place, but that Sagittarius A* may be partly to blame for the tumult.

The black hole is so ginormous that it has a mass a few million times that of our sun. The new image of our galaxy’s center may provide important insight into how our Milky Way and its black hole are evolving.

A paper describing the new image was published online in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on August 19, 2015.

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