Do you have 37 seconds of time to spare today? If so, you can zip towards the very center of our galaxy thanks to a new video put out by the Hubble Space Telescope team (see below). The video is really just a long zoom into an image released last month, but it definitely provides the sensation of heading through our galactic core to the black hole that lies at its center.
While you don't actually get to see our closest black hole because it's obscured by dust and a thick screen of stars, you do get to zip through the most crowded part of our galaxy in terms of stellar material. "This region is so packed with stars," says the Hubble team, "it is equivalent to having a million suns crammed into the volume of space between us and our closest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light years away."
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This crowded core of our spiral is located 27,000 light years away, which is a testament to Hubble's power. The space telescope used the infrared imaging power of its Wide Field Camera 3 to see through galactic dust and spot the over half million stars at the Milky Way's center.
The Hubble space telescope celebrated its 25-year anniversary last April. Although it still provides striking images of worlds beyond our own, it is nearing the end of its lifespan and will soon need to be brought back to Earth either in a controlled or uncontrolled atmosphere re-entry process. But those who love the dramatic images Hubble that still continues to provide needn't fear – Hubble's function will be taken over by the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in late 2018.
And now, without further delay, we bring you the heart of our galaxy.