This stunning image shows the heart of the Milky Way, a chaotic region of gas threads captured in both X-rays and radio wavelengths. The image is a mosaic of various images taken by NASA’s Chanda X-ray Observatory, and shows the intricate structures that the gas forms in the center of our galaxy.
The galaxy center is the region around the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy, called Sagittarius A *. The black hole is part of the violet-white blob in the center of the image – you can’t actually see the black hole itself, but you can see the hot dust around it. Thanks to seeing Chandra in X-ray wavelengths, the image shows a high-energy view of the field, with X-rays of different energies shown by Chandra in orange, green, blue, and purple and radio data from Miracat has gone. The radio telescope is shown in lilac and gray.
Gas threads form these complex structures due to the interaction with the magnetic field. We see a similar effect here on Earth when the Sun leaves charged particles traveling through the solar system and interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere as space weather. But at the galactic center, it is not just a sun that is driving the weather of space – it is inspired by more dramatic events such as multiple stars and supernova explosions.
Along the thread, the image also shows galactic plums, with massive structures of hot gas being expelled from the region and extending about 700 light-years above and below the Milky Way plane. NASA writes, “The gas is likely to be warmed by supernova explosions and several recent magnetic recombinations occurring near the center of the galaxy.” “Such recombination events are not sufficiently energetic to be detected in X-rays in galaxies, except for the most energetic ones at the center of the galaxy, where the interstellar magnetic field is very strong.”