(See description below)

click for full size

The Galactic Center in Infrared

The center of our Milky Way Galaxy is located in the constellation of Sagittarius. In visible light the lion's share of stars are hidden behind thick clouds of dust. This obscuring dust becomes increasingly transparent at infrared wavelengths. This 2MASS image, covering a field roughly 6.5 4 (about half the size of your fist held out at arm's length) reveals millions of otherwise hidden stars, penetrating all the way to the central star cluster of the Galaxy.

This central core, which appears orange here, is about 25,000 light years away and is thought to harbor a supermassive black hole. The reddening of the stars here and along the Galactic Plane is due to scattering by the dust; it is the same process by which the sun appears to redden as it sets.  What appear to be large, white stars are actually globular clusters.