A new Hubble image has presented a stunning glimpse of the nuclear star cluster known to shroud Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) – the supermassive black hole that lurks at the heart of our galaxy. The spectacular 50 light-year wide image was captured in the infrared spectrum by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.
The image is comprised of nine separate shots captured from Hubble's perspective, gazing toward the galactic core from 27,000 light-years away in the Orion Spur of the Perseus spiral arm. The infrared wavelengths of light captured by Hubble are invisible to the naked eye.
In order to allow us to comprehend the multitude of stars located near the galactic center, astronomers assigned each of the different infrared wavelengths visible colors. Foreground stars are displayed with a blueish tinge, while the more red-colored stars are those residing in the distant nuclear cluster.
Stacked images in the visible and infrared wavelength displaying the new Hubble composite in a wider context
Whilst the scene captured by the orbital telescope is undoubtedly impressive, it is in reality only a small section of the vast star cluster. Astronomers estimate that, despite Hubble's infrared capabilities, which are able to penetrate the vast clouds of gas and dust that would otherwise veil our view of the nuclear cluster, there around 10 million stars that are too faint to be captured in the image.
Astronomers have used images such as this latest release in order to track the movement of the stars over the course of a four-year period. It's hoped that the observations could improve our understanding of the Milky Way's central cluster, providing insights as to its structure and weight.