NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 July 27 

Milky Way and Aurora over Antarctica 

It has been one of the better skies of this long night. In parts of Antarctica, not only is it winter, but the Sun can spend weeks below the horizon. At China’s Zhongshan Station, people sometimes venture out into the cold to photograph a spectacular night sky. 

The featured image from one such outing was taken in mid-July, just before the end of this polar night. Pointing up, the wide angle lens captured not only the ground at the bottom, but at the top as well. In the foreground is a colleague also taking pictures. In the distance, a spherical satellite receiver and several windmills are visible. Numerous stars dot the night sky, including Sirius and Canopus. Far in the background, stretching overhead from horizon to horizon, is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. Even further in the distance, visible as extended smudges near the top, are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, satellite galaxies near our huge Milky Way Galaxy.

10

Mostly Mute Monday: Our Nearest Galaxy In Three Unique Views

“Ultraviolet images from Swift and GALEX showcase the hottest, youngest, bluest stars, which are found in clusters along the spiral arms and in the very center. In the infrared, from WISE and Spitzer, the cool gas shows where future generations of stars will form next. The shorter infrared wavelengths also highlight stars irrespective of whether galactic dust obscures them or not.”

If we want to know where new stars have formed, where the hottest ones are, where new ones will be forming and what lies behind the dust, we have to look in wavelengths beyond what our eyes can see. Yet our greatest space observatories can do exactly this, at both longer and shorter wavelengths, revealing a whole galaxy’s worth of secrets!