SCIENCE

This Is What The Center Of Our Galaxy Looks Like

Astronomers take an unprecedented, x-ray view of the black hole in the center of the Milky Way.
<span>The central regions of our galaxy, the Milky Way, seen in x-rays by ESA&rsquo;s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory.</span>
The central regions of our galaxy, the Milky Way, seen in x-rays by ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory.

This new, unprecedented image of the Milky Way shows that our galaxy's core is a pretty tumultuous place.

The compiled image of photos taken by the European Space Agency's x-ray satellite XMM-Newton (above) spans 1,000 light-years in the center of the galaxy, and shows dying stars, powerful winds, hot gas and, most notably, a supermassive black hole.

The galactic black hole, dubbed Sagittarius A*, and its surrounding emission are located in the brightest central region of the image.

Black holes don't emit light. But as the objects that surround Sagittarius A* in the Milky Way's center are pulled in by the black hole's strong gravitational grasp, the interaction emits light at various wavelengths, including x-rays.

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<span>This magnification shows the central 100 light-years of the galaxy's violent&nbsp;core. Here, only soft x-ray emissions
This magnification shows the central 100 light-years of the galaxy's violent core. Here, only soft x-ray emissions are shown.

After analyzing the image, an international team of astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics has not only concluded that the center of the galaxy is a dramatic place, but that Sagittarius A*  may be partly to blame for the tumult. 

The black hole is so ginormous that it has a mass a few million times that of our sun. The new image of our galaxy's center may provide important insight into how our Milky Way and its black hole are evolving.

A paper describing the new image was published online in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on August 19, 2015.

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