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ESO image zooms in on centre of Milky Way galaxy

The latest image released by ESO. Image Credit: ESO

PARIS (BNS): The European Southern Observatory has unveiled the second image of its GigaGalaxy Zoom project online, exhibiting stunning view of central parts of our Milky Way Galaxy.

The first image of the project, released over a week ago, showed a 360-degree panoramic view of magnificent night sky.

The latest 340-million-pixel image highlights the central parts of our home galaxy Milky Way as seen from ESO's Paranal Observatory with an amateur telescope. The 30 by 20-degree wide image directly benefits from the quality of Paranal's sky, one of the best on the planet, where ESO's Very Large Telescope is located.

The picture shows a region spanning from the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer) to Scorpius (the Scorpion). The very colourful Rho Ophiuchi and Antares region is a prominent feature to the right, although much darker areas, such as the Pipe and Snake nebulae also stand out in the picture.

The dusty lane of our Milky Way runs obliquely through the image, dotted with remarkable bright, reddish nebulae, such as the Lagoon and the Trifid Nebulae, as well as NGC 6357 and NGC 6334. This dark lane also hosts the very centre of our Galaxy, where a supermassive black hole is lurking, ESO said.

Well-known astrophotographer and ESO engineer Stéphane Guisard assembled about 1200 individual images, totalling over 200 hours of exposure time, collected over 29 nights, thereby creating the stunning, true-colour mosaic of the Galactic Centre region.

“The area I have depicted in this image is an incredibly rich region of the sky, and the one I find most beautiful,” said Guisard.

The splendid starscape is the second of three extremely high resolution images featured in the GigaGalaxy Zoom project, launched by ESO as part of International Year of Astronomy 2009. The project allows stargazers to explore and experience the Universe as seen with unaided eye from the darkest and best viewing locations in the world.

The third image of the series will be made public on 28 September, 2009.

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