Combining pictures from three great observatories, NASA has released a dramatic picture of the heart of the Milky Way.
To commemorate the International Year of Astronomy - it's 400 years since Galileo first trained his telescope on the sky - NASA plans to give six-foot-by-three-foot prints of the image to more than 150 planetariums, museums, nature centers, libraries and schools across the country.
The image combines a near-infrared view from the Hubble Space Telescope, an infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope and an X-ray view from the Chandra X-ray Observatory into one multi-wavelength picture. Experts from all three observatories carefully assembled the final image from large mosaic photo surveys taken by each telescope.
The composite picture includes every aspect of of stellar evolution - regions of star birth, young hot stars, old cool stars and black holes.
Infrared light reveals more than a hundred thousand stars, along with glowing dust clouds.
The diffuse blue haze in the image is X-ray light from gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by outflows from the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy, as well as by winds from massive stars and by stellar explosions.
a list of places exhibiting the images can be found here. http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2009/28