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Astro-Image(s) of the Day: The Milky Way

Wow, a couple of gorgeous shots from the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day. After that are a couple more shots from NASA. Yesterday's, taken from atop Mauna Kea on Hawaii, high above most of the Earth's atmosphere:

Click the image to see the story.

And from last September, a mosaic taken in Canyonlands National Park, eastern Utah:

Click the image to see the story.

The Milky Way is the most-visible portion of our Milky Way Galaxy, recently identified as a barred-spiral type (see photo, below). We live within a small, partial arm called the Orion Arm, between the Sagittarius and Perseus Arms. This is about 2/3 of the way out from the core, so what we call "the Milky Way" is the disk of the galaxy; when we look inward toward the densest region, near the constellation Sagittarius, we're looking toward the galactic core. In the opposite direction of the core lies the outer Perseus Arm, while above and below the band of the Milky Way is the relative emptiness of intergalactic space. This next photo is a great map of the Milky Way Galaxy looking down from above, annotated with names of the spiral arms:

Click the image to see details about the spiral arms in our galaxy and to find a much-larger version of the image.

The Milky Way Galaxy is about 100,000 light-years across, 1,000 light-years thick, and contains between 200-400 billion stars. It takes our Solar System 220 million years to orbit the core. Wow, think about those numbers for a moment, then check out this great panorama of our view of this awesome domain:

Click the image to see a much-bigger version.

When I was young, I used to live in places where I could look up and see such glory. After looking at these photos, I need a vacation to a dark place.

Best,
Chris

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Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
stonetable
Jan. 28th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
Just once, I'd like to travel to one of these places and see the night sky as it's meant to be seen.
mckitterick
Jan. 28th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
When I was a boy, I lived (for several years, anyway) in really dark areas. I got seriously into astronomy living in western Minnesota, where black skies and the glow of the Milky Way were within a few minutes' walk. I miss that a lot.
stonetable
Jan. 28th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
We can see hints of the Milky Way from my dad's place in northern Wisconsin, but they pale in comparison to those photographs. I think I'd like to retire to a place where I could be a serious amateur astronomer, if such a place exists by then.
mckitterick
Jan. 28th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
Hopefully by then, we'll be able to homestead on the Moon.

(And no one can see the Milky Way quite this dramatically with naked eyes. You need light collection over time or with bigger objectives.)
stonetable
Jan. 28th, 2009 09:11 pm (UTC)
I kind of figured as much. Even with the naked eye, what you can see without the usual light pollution is powerful.

I want my moon base.
queenoftheskies
Jan. 28th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, my gosh! How BEAUTIFUL!
mckitterick
Jan. 28th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
I know! Galaxies are stunning not only in their gorgeousity but also in terms of size and grandeur.
fortyozspartan
Jan. 29th, 2009 05:57 pm (UTC)
Is gorgeousity a word?
mckitterick
Jan. 29th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
I see that it's been written twice right here on this page, so it must be!

:-)
will_couvillier
Jan. 28th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
Dunno about you, but for me that Utah photo sure does look like the core of a SF story...
mckitterick
Jan. 28th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
Get to it! ;-)
cmt2779
Jan. 28th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
That first picture is so breathtaking. I really think that if everyone could see that every night, actually see some of what surrounds us, it would change the way we as a species viewed ourselves and the way we behaved. How can you look at that and not be awestruck?
mckitterick
Jan. 28th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. We need a return of dark skies, and it's possible to eliminate much of light pollution. Check out the various dark-sky organizations.
ericreynolds
Jan. 28th, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC)
Wow!

Last summer my kids and I camped out in NW New Mexico at Chaco Canyon. No cities within 100 miles, and the Milky Way just glowed.

That map of the Galaxy is cool. And I thought it was fascinating a few years ago when evidence came out indicating we live in a barred-spiral.
mckitterick
Jan. 28th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC)
I'm jealous! I so want to take a trip like that... heck, live in a place like that.

When I was researching for this post, I was stunned to see the new map of our galaxy. I, too, recall when the evidence came to light, so to speak, but I hadn't seen such a clear map. Awe-inspiring stuff, this.
clevermanka
Jan. 28th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
Well, Utah is probably cheaper than Hawaii, but...
theoneinblue
Jan. 29th, 2009 12:00 am (UTC)
...it's Utah. But Canyonlands is near Moab, which isn't a bad little town, if you overlook the tourist-trap aspects of it...the brewery there had some good beer, if I remember correctly...definitely worth visiting, though, for the natural beauty of those parks. It's amazing.
clevermanka
Jan. 29th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
*perk*

Beer!
theoneinblue
Jan. 28th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting such lovely and awe-inspiring photos! And I hear you when you miss your dark places...growing up on a Kansas farm definitely had that perk, and I miss it.
mckitterick
Jan. 29th, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's one of the few perks of rural life for a teen. It helped shape who I became. I wonder if city-dwelling kids are even aware of the night sky beyond the Moon...?
siro_gravity
Feb. 1st, 2009 06:38 am (UTC)
woooooooooooooooooow!!!! was i supposed to READ something?? these are so gorgeous! at first i thought the top pictures were paintings! i enlarged the image on the bottom...what is that chunk of rock in the foreground that looks like it scooted itself into the frame by itself?
mckitterick
Feb. 1st, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
Good eye! That's one of the sailing stones:

Click the image to see the story.
siro_gravity
Feb. 1st, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
i read that whole page.
and explanations don't make any sense!!
especially in light of:
Karen (stone J) is a 29 by 19 by 20 inch (74 by 48 by 51 cm) block of dolomite and weighs an estimated 700 pounds (about 320 kg). Perhaps not surprisingly Karen didn't move during the monitoring period. The stone may have created its 570 straight and old track from momentum gained from its initial fall onto the wet playa. However, Karen disappeared sometime before May 1994, possibly during the unusually wet winter of 1992 to 1993. Removal by artificial means is considered unlikely due to the lack of associated damage to the playa that the needed truck and winch would have done. A possible sighting of Karen was made in 1994 a half mile (800 m) from the playa.
and how come nobody has seen any of them move? wouldn't you think some crazy scientist would camp out with a motion detector? i guess keeping a tent up with 90mph winds would be something of a challenge.
still would a 90mph wind move a 700 pound boulder?
hm.
pretty kewl-weird!
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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