Four of the European Southern Observatory's Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) antennas gaze up at the night sky. Milky Way is visible at left.
The Milky Way shines over the 1.54-meter Danish telescope at La Silla, Chile.
The Milky Way is seen in all its glory, as well as, in the lower right, the Large Magellanic Cloud.
This bright Perseid meteor streaking through skies near Lake Balaton, Hungary on August 8, 2010, served as advance guard for the meteor shower that was scheduled to peak a few days later. In the foreground stands the region's Church of St. Andrew ruin, with bright Jupiter dominating the sky to its right. Two galaxies lie in the background: our own Milky Way, and the faint smudge of the more distant Andromeda Galaxy just above the ruin's leftmost wall.
Axel Mellinger, of Central Michigan University, created this panorama of the Milky Way from 3,000 individual photographs that he melded together with mathematical models.
In this spectacular image, observations using infrared light and X-ray light see through the obscuring dust and reveal the intense activity near the galactic core of the Milky Way. The image combines pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory.
This heavenly view of the Milky Way was taken in the South Pacific paradise of Mangaia, the most southerly of the Cook Islands. This image was chosen as one of the winners of the National Maritime Museum's Astrophotographer of the Year 2011 Contest.
Three of the four 8.2-m telescopes forming ESO's VLT are seen dimly, with a laser beaming out from Yepun, Unit Telescope number 4. The laser points at the Galactic Center of the Milky Way, our galaxy. The bright object at center is Jupiter, while the other is Antares.
The Milky Way shines in all its majesty, as well as the Magellanic Clouds on the right. Some of the docking stations for the Auxiliary Telescopes of the VLTI lie in the foreground.
Artist's concept of the four tails of the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy (orange clump on left of the image) orbiting the Milky Way. The bright yellow circle to the right of the Milky Way's center is our sun (not to scale). We can see the Sagittarius galaxy's star tails stretching across the sky.
Stargazers on the Isle of Sark, in the Channel Islands off the coast of England, enjoy the wonder of the Milky Way.
A section of the largest image of the Milky Way ever created. It was stitched together from 800,000 individual infrared images taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011: In Chile's Atacama Desert, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds — satellite galaxies of our own — glow brightly at the left. The Milky Way, our galaxy, appears brightly on the horizon, while the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope stands at the right.
The Milky Way glows above Seigneur's Mill on Sark.
A still from a time-lapse video made by photographer Terje Sorgjerd of the night sky as seen from the Canary Islands.
An artist's rendering of the Milky Way and its central bar structure, with the Sun's position noted.
A simulated view of the Milky Way. Spiral arms contain higher concentrations of stars and gas. Each arm is a density wave that can reroute stars. The Sun is near the edge of one arm, about halfway out from the galactic center, or 26,000 light-years.
A photos of one of the newfound stellar exiles.
Part of one of the four regions of the sky in the direction of the galactic bulge in which the astronomers measured the iron and oxygen content of stars.
This Chandra image shows our Galaxy’s center. The location of the black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, is arrowed. Also marked on this image are newly discovered large lobes of multimillion-degree gas that extend for dozens of light years on either side of the black hole.
This is a color composite image of the central region of our Milky Way galaxy, about 26,000 light years from Earth. Giant clouds of gas and dust are shown in blue, as detected by the LABOCA instrument on the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope at submillimetre wavelengths (870 micron). The image also contains near-infrared data from the 2MASS project at K-band (in red), H-band (in green), and J-band (in blue). The image shows a region approximately 100 light-years wide.
This composite image of star-forming gas clouds in the Milky Way was taken by the recently launched Hershel telescope, and released Oct. 2, 2009.
This infrared image shows the center of our galaxy and the stars orbiting what is thought to be a supermassive black hole at the galactic center.
This image, showing the center of the Milky Way, from the constellation Sagittarius to the constellation Scorpius, was taken by amateur astronomer and astrophotographer Stephane Guisard.
The center of the Milky Way harbors a supermassive black hole more than four million times the mass of our sun, about 25,000 light-years from Earth. Sagittarius B2 (Sgr B2) is one of the largest clouds of molecular gas in the Milky Way, shown here as the bright orange-red region at left and center (submillimeter-wavelength ATLASGAL data). This composite image includes infrared data (green and blue) from the Midcourse Space Experiment.
A view from the bustling center of our galactic metropolis. Spitzer Space Telescope offers us a fresh, infrared view of the frenzied scene at the center of our Milky Way, revealing what lies behind the dust.
This image from VISTA is a tiny part of the VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) survey that is systematically studying the central parts of the Milky Way in infrared light. In the center lies the faint newly found globular star cluster, VVV CL002. This previously unknown globular, which appears as an inconspicuous concentration of faint stars near the centre of the picture, lies close to the center of the Milky Way.
This image from VISTA is a tiny part of the VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) survey that is systematically studying the central parts of the Milky Way in infrared light. On the right lies the globular star cluster UKS 1 and on the left lies a much less conspicuous new discovery, VVV CL001 — a previously unknown globular, one of just 160 known globular clusters in the Milky Way at this time.
The dark Coalsack is readily apparent in the middle of the image. The stars Alpha Centauri (the closest star to our solar system at 4.3-light years away) and Beta Century are to the left of the Coalsack, while the famous Southern Cross (Crux) is poised just above and to the right of the Coalsack. The Southern Milky Way is far more spectacular than the Milky Way that those of us situated north of the equator can ever see. Taken from La Serena, Chile on April 6, 1986.
Stars in the Milky Way.
This set of Chandra images shows evidence for a light echo generated by the Milky Way's supermassive black hole, a.k.a. Sagittarius A* (pronounced "A-star").
Image of the galactic X-ray background superimposed on an image of infrared sources. The X-rays, shown as white contour lines, were detected by NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer. Everything else is the infrared background. The white knots reveal very bright X-ray sources, mostly from black hole and neutron star activity.
A multi-wavelength image of the Milky Way's center. It is towards the galactic center where the highest number of stars and rocky planets reside, but also where the most supernovae occur.
The leading arm of gas streaming from the Magellanic Clouds is piercing the disk of the Milky Way.
This image from a supercomputer simulation shows the density of dark matter in our Milky Way galaxy, with yellow being densest and blue-black showing areas of least density. The bright central region corresponds roughly to the Milky Way's luminous matter of gas and stars, and the bright clumps outside indicate dark-matter satellites orbiting the Milky Way.
By measuring the speeds of distant stars, researchers estimated the mass of the Milky Way's dark matter halo (indicated in dim red), finding it to be much slimmer than previously thought.
The yellow circles show the young stars that were detected in the chaotic environment at the Milky Way's center.
Three new streams of stars were discovered ringing the Milky Way. The two closest streams are thought to be star clusters, while the huge arcing stream is thought to be a dwarf galaxy.
As the sun orbits around the center of the Milky Way, it bobs up and down relative to the plane of the galactic disk. Every 64 million years, our solar system pops above the "northern" edge of the disk, exposing Earth to a barrage of dangerous cosmic rays that may be affecting biodiversity on the planet.
An artist's rendition of the collision between the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy. The results, however, may be more atypical than previously expected.
Clouds of gas that rain down upon the Milky Way form from a variety of sources. Some drift between galaxies in space. Others are recycled from supernovas, whose force ejects them from the galaxy. When gravity acts on these clouds, they bind together to form new stars.
This map illustrates the numerous star-forming clouds, called cold cores, that Planck observed throughout our Milky Way galaxy. Planck, a European Space Agency mission with significant NASA participation, detected around 10,000 of these cores, thousands of which had never been seen before.
Skywatcher Shawn Malone sent in this photo of the Milky Way taken during the weekend of April 28-29, 2012, from the shore of Lake Superior. She writes: "The Milky Way was eye poppingly bright."