Galactic Center Wide Field VLA Radio Image
|Minimum credit line: Image courtesy of NRAO/AUI
and N.E. Kassim, Naval Research Laboratory(for details, see .|
Forever hidden behind a thick veil of dust and gas, the center of our Milky
Way Galaxy cannot be seen in visible light, the kind of light that our eyes
see. In order to study the center of our Galaxy, astronomers must turn to
other colors of light, like gamma-rays, X-rays, infrared, and radio.
This panoramic view of the center of our Milky Way Galaxy is at a radio
wavelength (color) of approximately 1 meter. This image is the largest and
most sensitive radio image ever made of the Milky Way's center at a uniform
and high resolution.
The beauty and complexity of this image excites the imagination of experts
and non-experts like. The concentration of sources along a diagonal line
through the image reveals the disk-like shape of the Milky Way viewed
edge-on. This image also serves as a useful tool for astronomers because it
displays all of the major components of the Milky Way's center region in a
The most prominent source in the image is Sgr A. (Its name derives from the
fact that the Milky Way's center is in the direction of the constellation
Sagittarius, abbreviation Sgr. Deep within Sgr A is the source Sgr A*, which
astronomers have identified as possibly being a black hole with a mass
millions of times that of the Sun.
Sgr A is clearly not the only source, though. As hot young stars form, they
heat the gas around them. Eventually, the gas can become hot enough that it
glows, serving as a lamppost to show where stars are forming. There are a
number of prominent regions of star formation in the Milky Way's center
including Sgr B1 and B2 and part of Sgr D. When hot stars run out of fuel,
they collapse, producing massive explosions known as supernovae. The
explosive debris becomes a supernova remnant, within which high-speed
electrons are spiraling around magnetic fields. A number of such supernova
remnants are visible within this image. In addition, this spiraling or
synchrotron radiation seems to be responsible for a collection of
enigmatic sources known as the Galactic center arc, filaments, and
threads. The true nature of these filamentary structures remains a mystery,
though it is clear that their emission, orientation, and structure provide
important clues to the energetics and large-scale magnetic field structure
in the center of the Milky Way.
This image has also led to the discovery of many new sources, including a
new supernova remnant, numerous pulsar candidates, several new filamentary
structures, and a mysterious transient source.
Investigator(s): N.E. Kassim, T.J.W. Lazio, T.N. Larosa, D.S. Briggs, and
This image is available in the following downloadable versions:
- 462 x 576
- 842 x 1050
- 2100 x 2619
If you would like to obtain a higher resolution version of this image,
- Read the
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- For unfamiliar terms, visit the NRAO
Date of Observation
Type of Observation
Center of Image
RA: 17:43:15.00, Dec: -28:52:0.00 (J2000)
Field of View
2.5000 x 4.0000 degrees
This image was made from archival data which were
reprocessed using modern, wide-field imaging software (Cornwell's SDE DRAGON
routine). The archival data were kindly provided by A. Pedlar from
multi-configuration observations (A, B, C, D) originally taken between March
1986 - May 1987. The resolution is 48" x 48". The peak brightness is 8.5 Jy/beam, and the rms noise level (excluding the bright sources on the Galactic ridge) is 5.9 mJy/beam.
- Astronomical database entries for Sgr A
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