Dramatic new portrait helps define Milky Way's shape, contents

Using more than 2 million images collected by NASA's orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope, a team of Wisconsin scientists has stitched together a dramatic 360 degree portrait of the Milky Way, providing new details of our galaxy's structure and contents.

Galactic diamonds in the tail of the scorpion

Messier 7, also known as NGC 6475, is a brilliant cluster of about 100 stars located some 800 light-years from Earth. In this new picture from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope it stands out against a very rich background of hundreds of thousands of fainter stars, in the direction of the centre of the Milky Way.

Billion-star surveyor comes into focus

ESA’s billion-star surveyor Gaia is slowly being brought into focus. This test image shows a dense cluster of stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way.

Mapping the stars of the Milky Way

With a final, modest, thruster burn yesterday afternoon, ESA’s billion-star surveyor finalised its entry into orbit around ‘L2’, a virtual point far out in space. But how do you orbit nothing? And who can show you how to get there, anyway?

Massive stars mark out Milky Way's 'missing' arms

A 12-year study of massive stars has reaffirmed that our Galaxy has four spiral arms, following years of debate sparked by images taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope that only showed two arms.

NASA's Chandra helps confirm evidence of jet in Milky Way's black hole

Astronomers have long sought strong evidence that Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, is producing a jet of high-energy particles. Finally they have found it, in new results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope.

Magnetic ‘force field’ shields giant gas cloud during collision with Milky Way

Doom may be averted for the Smith Cloud, a gigantic streamer of hydrogen gas that is on a collision course with the Milky Way Galaxy. Astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) have discovered a magnetic field deep in the cloud’s interior, which may protect it during its meteoric plunge into the disk of our Galaxy.

A glimpse of the violent past of Milky Way's giant black hole

Researchers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have found evidence that the normally dim region very close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy flared up with at least two luminous outbursts in the past few hundred years.

Milky Way gas cloud causes multiple images of distant quasar

For the first time, astronomers have seen the image of a distant quasar split into multiple images by the effects of a cloud of ionized gas in our own Milky Way Galaxy. Such events were predicted as early as 1970, but the first evidence for one now has come from the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescope system.

Astronomers witness birth of Milky Way’s most massive star

Astronomers used the new ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) telescope in Chile – the most powerful radio telescope in the world – to view the stellar womb which, at 500 times the mass of the Sun and many times more luminous, is the largest ever seen in our galaxy.

Under the wings of a small Magellanic Cloud

The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is one of the Milky Way's closest galactic neighbors.

Video: The mystery of spiral galaxies and their enigmatic arms

Our very own Milky Way is likely a spiral galaxy. Indeed, our solar system and Earth reside somewhere near one of its filamentous, swept-back arms.

This black hole is having a light snack

Astronomers are observing a black hole that woke up from a decades-long slumber to feed on a low-mass object - either a brown dwarf or a giant planet - that strayed too close.

The hot blue stars of NGC 2547

The Universe is a considerably old neighbourhood, weighing in at approximately 13.8 billion years old. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is also ancient - as some of its stars are more than 13 billion years old.

NASA's Swift spots a youthful star wreck

While performing an extensive X-ray survey of our galaxy's central regions, NASA's Swift satellite spotted the previously unknown remains of a shattered star.

Earthlike planets could be close at hand

There's probably an Earth-sized planet with a comfortable temperature as little as 13 light years away, data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope implies.

Dung beetles navigate using Milky Way

The ancient Egyptians associated the dung beetle with the sun, seeing a parallel between the way it rolls its ball of dung and the way the sun moves across the sky.

Inside the large Magellanic cloud

The Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, floats in space nearly 200,000 light-years from Earth in a long and slow dance around our galaxy.

Hubble flirts with the Great Attractor

A rather busy patch of space was recently snapped by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Scattered with many nearby stars, the field boasts numerous galaxies in the background.

Revealing the 'skeleton' of the Milky Way

Astronomers have identified a new part of our Milky Way galaxy; a structure they are calling the 'bone'.