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Starts With A Bang

Mostly Mute Monday: A GLIMPSE of the Galaxy

The Spitzer Space Telescope has imaged our entire galactic plane in the infrared, and it’s a 180,000 pixel spectacular.

“Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.” –Albert Camus

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/the GLIMPSE team.

Centered on the galactic plane, this 360° mosaic of our Milky Way in infrared light is composed of more than two million images taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope from its launch in 2003 through 2014. Known as GLIMPSE360, the stars in our galaxy are shown in blue while the dust that will lead to new stars is shown in red, a view impossible to achieve in visible light. Away from the galactic center, the individual stars are clearly discernible, while they blur together in a great, dense amalgamation of literally billions in the constellation of Sagittarius. The selection above shows less than 3% of the total sky, yet contains nearly 50% of the stars in our galaxy, as well as a vast number of nebulae and new (and future) star-forming regions.

This data will enable scientists to build the most accurate model ever of star-formation, history and evolution within our galaxy, and understand the mechanism behind the origin of practically all the light in our Universe. Below, two videos show a pan through the Milky Way and a snapshot of highlights from GLIMPSE360. Explore your favorite regions interactively with the World Wide Telescope or the Aladin viewer.

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