Here’s your chance to take a 360-degree tour of the Milky Way

A stunning new visualization by NASA lets you explore massive stars, and supermassive black holes located at the heart of the Milky Way. Explore, like never before, our cosmic neighborhood and enjoy this journey which is unlike any other you’ve ever taken.

A new visualization with data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory of NASA and other telescopes provides a 360-degree virtual journey to the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

This stunning new project allows viewers to control their own exploration of the fascinating environment of massive volatile stars and the powerful gravity around monster black holes that lie at the center of the Milky Way.

Our planet, the pale blue dot is located some 26,000 light years from the center of the galaxy.

Image Credit

While humans can not physically travel there—at least not yet with our current technology—scientists have been able to study this region using data from powerful telescopes that can detect light in a variety of ways, including X-rays and infrared light.

The visualization also uses infrared data from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope.

From the point of view of the supermassive black hole of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A, the viewer can see around 25 Wolf-Rayet stars (flashing white objects) while continually eject stellar winds (scale from black to red to yellow).

These winds collide with each other, and then part of this material (yellow spots) spirals towards Sagittarius A.

NASA’s visualization shows two simulations, each of which starts around 350 years ago and covers 500 years.

The first visualization shows Sagittarius A in a quiet state, while the second contains a more violent Sagittarius A that expels material, which deactivates the accumulation of agglomerated material (yellow spots) that is so prominent in the first part.

Karl Jansky discovered evidence of black holes at the center of our galaxy in 1931 when he identified radio waves coming from the region.

If one day, scientists actually managed to snap an image of Sagittarius A, it would serve as a crucial test for Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, and could even be used to rewrite our understanding of physics.

Einstein proposed that light would be caused by gas and dust accelerating at incredible speeds, and being torn apart. This would suggest that black holes might actually look like a series of Golden rings.

Project leader Sheperd Doeleman from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts told the BBC: “As I’ve said before, it’s never a good idea to bet against Einstein, but if we did see something that was very different from what we expect we would have to reassess the theory of gravity. I don’t expect that is going to happen, but anything could happen and that’s the beauty of it.”

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