gigagalaxy zoom

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Mostly Mute Monday: The Galactic Plane

Once thought to be its own, unique class of object, the Milky Way is today known to be simply a collection of hundreds of billions of stars, viewed from our vantage point within the galactic plane.

In the early 1600s, Galileo became the first to resolve much of the Milky Way into individual stars, not yet knowing that it was also full of dust, nebulae, and star-forming regions as well. Thanks to amazing projects such as ESO’s Gigagalaxy Zoom, we can view the entire galactic plane at once, at resolutions unimaginable centuries ago.

Gigagalaxy Zoom: Galactic Center

From Sagittarius to Scorpius, the central Milky Way is a truly beautiful part of planet Earth’s night sky. The gorgeous region is captured here, an expansive gigapixel mosaic of 52 fields spanning 34 by 20 degrees in 1200 individual images and 200 hours of exposure time. Part of ESO's Gigagalaxy Zoom Project, the images were collected over 29 nights with a small telescope under the exceptionally clear, dark skies of the ESO Paranal Observatory in Chile. The breathtaking cosmic vista shows off intricate dust lanes, bright nebulae, and star clusters scattered through our galaxy’s rich central starfields. Starting on the left, look for the Lagoon and Trifid nebulae, the Cat’s Paw, the Pipe dark nebula, and the colorful clouds of Rho Ophiuchi and Antares (right).

Credit: ESO / Stéphane Guisard