Details of the VISTA Galactic Centre image

Left: Clouds of stars and dust towards the heart of our galaxy. This detail from the VISTA infrared image of the central regions of the Milky Way shows a very dense star cloud to the left and complex branching clouds of dust to the right. The red colour comes from the scattering and absorption of the bluer light by thick clouds of fine dust. The same mechanism explains the rich red hues of sunsets on Earth. This extract is about twenty arcminutes across.

Centre: This tiny detail from VISTA’s infrared wide view of the Galactic Centre shows two rich and very well-known star clusters located close to the heart of the Milky Way and about 30,000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation of Sagittarius. Both are hidden behind thick clouds of dust and cannot be seen in visible light. The clump of stars to the right is the Arches Cluster, the densest star cluster in our galaxy, and containing about one thousand hot young stars. To the left lies the Quintuplet Cluster, containing one of the most luminous stars in the Milky Way, also known as the Pistol Star. The field of view is about five arcminutes across.

Right: A tiny clump of nebulosity surrounding a small group of young stars is hidden deep in the VISTA infrared view of the rich star clouds towards the centre of our galaxy and appears on the right of this small image extract. The dazzling object on the left is a faint star. This picture shows a field about four arcminutes across.


ESO/VISTA. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

About the Image

Release date:11 December 2009, 11:30
Related releases:eso0949
Size:4436 x 1551 px

About the Object

Name:Milky Way Galactic Centre
Type:Milky Way : Galaxy : Component : Center/Core
Distance:30000 light years

Image Formats

Large JPEG
3.1 MB
Screensize JPEG
235.8 KB


535.9 KB
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1020.5 KB
1.2 MB
1.3 MB

Colours & filters

InfraredVisible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy