NASA has released a new, zoomable panoramic view of the Milky Way galaxy from the Spitzer Space Telescope.
The Milky Way galaxy consists of a flat disc of hundreds of billions of stars. Seen from Earth with the naked eye, it appears as a dimly glowing, "milky" band arching across the night sky. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is not only able to distinguish individual stars - it's able to give us an unobstructed, infrared view, and NASA has released a zoomable panorama that is the product of over two million snapshots taken over the course of the past decade.
The pictures only cover about three percent of the sky, yet include more than half of the galaxy's stars. Each band depicts a separate slice of the Milky Way. In these false color images, red indicates dusty areas of star formation, while the blue haze is made up of distant starlight.
Visible light is blocked by stellar dust, but the infrared view is able to see through that dust and reveal the stars beyond. When we look up at the night sky, stars that are more than 1,000 light-years away are hidden from us, but Spitzer's mosaic depicts light from stars throughout the Milky Way, which spans 100,000 light-years across.
The photos from the 360-degree mosaic comes mostly from the GLIMPSE360 project - Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire.
To view the full-resolution, zoomable images, visit the Spitzer website.
Source: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory