Daily Telescope: A snapshot of 500,000 stars near the center of the galaxy

A 50-light-years-wide portion of the Milky Way’s dense center.
Enlarge / A 50-light-years-wide portion of the Milky Way’s dense center.


Welcome to the Daily Telescope. There is a little too much darkness in this world and not enough light, a little too much pseudoscience and not enough science. We’ll let other publications offer you a daily horoscope. At Ars Technica, we’re going to take a different route, finding inspiration from very real images of a universe that is filled with stars and wonder.

Good morning. It’s November 21, and today’s image takes us into the heart of our galaxy.

Specifically, the image from the James Webb Space Telescope features a star-forming region named Sagittarius C, which is about 300 light-years from the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole.

According to astronomers, there are about 500,000 stars in this image. Because the center of the galaxy is relatively close at 25,000 light-years away—compared to the distance of other galaxies from our own—Webb can discern lots of details about individual stars. This image, in particular, will provide important insights into the nature of stellar formation.

Here’s some more detail on this image from the European Space Agency: “At the heart of this young cluster is a previously known, massive protostar over 30 times the mass of our Sun. The cloud the protostars are emerging from is so dense that the light from stars behind it cannot reach Webb, making it appear less crowded when in fact it is one of the most densely packed areas of the image. Smaller infrared-dark clouds dot the image, looking like holes in the star field. That’s where future stars are forming.”

Source: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, S. Crowe.

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