NASA view of Milky Way center looks like dazzling psychedelic fireworks

Two telescopes teamed up to deliver an eye-popping panorama of the heart of our home galaxy.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Chandra X-ray data and MeerKAT radio observations combined for this panorama of the Milky Way's galactic center.

X-ray: NASA/CXC/UMass/Q.D. Wang; Radio: NRF/SARAO/Meerkat

Trippy. A new view of the Milky Way's galactic center looks like a lot of things. Fireworks. Paparazzi flashes. Sparklers on a dark night. 

The searing, colorful view is the work of NASA's spacefaring Chandra X-ray observatory and the Earth-dwelling Meerkat radio telescope in South Africa. "Threads of superheated gas and magnetic fields are weaving a tapestry of energy at the center of the Milky Way galaxy," NASA said in a statement last week.

The bright colors in the panorama represent different data. Chandra's X-ray vision is translated into orange, green, blue and purple. Meerkat's radio data is gray and lilac. 

The image is a wonder to behold, but it's also helping scientists understand what's happening in this part of our galaxy.

Enlarge Image

This intriguing "thread" in the galactic center is the subject of a paper by Q. Daniel Wang.

X-ray: NASA/CXC/UMass/Q.D. Wang; Radio: NRF/SARAO/Meerkat

Astronomer Q. Daniel Wang of the University of Massachusetts is the author of a study on the Milky Way's galactic center -- the spot our galaxy rotates around -- that uses Chandra and Meerkat to explore the fascinating features and structures that lurk there. The paper is part of the June issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal.

Wang took a close look at a thread-like feature in the center. 

"A detailed study of these threads teaches us more about the galactic space weather astronomers have witnessed throughout the region," NASA said. The space agency said the weather is driven by dramatic events like supernova explosions, stars blowing off hot gas, and outbursts from near the galaxy's supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*.

The galactic center is a wild place, and researchers are still untangling what's happening there. Continued observations will keep scientists busy, and the rest of us can stare in awe at the energetic beauty of the Milky Way as seen by our telescopes' far-reaching eyes.

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