Whitney Clavin 818-354-4673
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Donna Weaver/Ray Villard 410-338-4493/338-4514
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
dweaver@xxxxxxxxx / villard@xxxxxxxxx
Megan Watzke 617-496-7998
Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.
News release: 2009-162 Nov. 10, 2009
NASA's Great Observatories Celebrate International Year of Astronomy
The full version of this story with accompanying images is at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2009-162
PASADENA, Calif. -- A never-before-seen view of the turbulent heart of our
Milky Way galaxy is being unveiled by NASA today. This event will
commemorate the 400 years since Galileo first turned his telescope to the
heavens in 1609.
In celebration of this International Year of Astronomy, NASA is releasing images
of the galactic center region as seen by its Great Observatories to more than 150
planetariums, museums, nature centers, libraries and schools across the country.
The sites will unveil a giant, 6-foot-by-3-foot print of the bustling hub of our
galaxy that combines a near-infrared view from the Hubble Space Telescope, an
infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and an X-ray view from the
Chandra X-ray Observatory into one multiwavelength picture. Experts from all
three observatories carefully assembled the final image from large mosaic photo
surveys taken by each telescope. This composite image provides one of the most
detailed views ever of our galaxy's mysterious core.
Participating institutions also will display a matched trio of Hubble, Spitzer and
Chandra images of the Milky Way's center on a second large panel measuring 3
feet by 4 feet. Each image shows the telescope's unique wavelength view of the
galactic center region, illustrating not only the unique science each observatory
conducts, but also how far astronomy has come since Galileo.
The composite image features the spectacle of stellar evolution: from vibrant
regions of star birth, to young hot stars, to old cool stars, to seething remnants of
stellar death called black holes. This activity occurs against a fiery backdrop in
the crowded, hostile environment of the galaxy's core, the center of which is
dominated by a supermassive black hole nearly four million times more massive
than our sun. Permeating the region is a diffuse blue haze of X-ray light from gas
that has been heated to millions of degrees by outflows from the supermassive
black hole, as well as by winds from massive stars and stellar explosions.
Infrared light reveals more than a hundred thousand stars along with glowing
dust clouds that create complex structures, including compact globules, long
filaments, and finger-like "pillars of creation," where newborn stars are just
beginning to break out of their dark, dusty cocoons.
The unveilings will take place at 152 institutions nationwide, reaching both big
cities and small towns. Each institution will conduct an unveiling celebration
involving the public, schools and local media.
The Astrophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate supports the
International Year of Astronomy Great Observatories image unveiling. The
project is a collaboration among the Space Telescope Science Institute in
Baltimore, Md., the Spitzer Science Center in Pasadena, Calif., and the Chandra
X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.
Images of the Milky Way galactic center region and a list of places exhibiting
these images can be found at:
http://spitzer.caltech.edu and http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer
http://hubblesite.org/news/2009/28 and http://www.nasa.gov/hubble
http://chandra.harvard.edu and http://www.nasa.gov/chandra
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space
Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science
operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
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