Galactic ‘Art’ above Cerro-Tololo

The dark skies of the Andean mountains come alive as a dazzling light show in this panorama of the Cerro-Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab. Standing in the foreground are some of the observatory’s biggest telescopes: (left to right) the decommissioned CHilean Automatic Supernova sEarch (CHASE), the SMARTS 1-meter Telescope, the Curtis Schmidt Telescope, the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope, the SMARTS 1.5-meter Telescope, and the SMARTS 0.9-meter Telescope

The sepia-like whites and browns of the ground-based observatory stand in contrast with the background, a colorful painting on the black canvas of space. While painters might use oil or watercolor, the medium of this painting is light itself. The thick impasto-style stroke at the center of this cosmic artwork is the Milky Way which appears as a textured arch of light. Plastered along the arch are dark patches collectively known as The Great Rift, colossal clouds of dust blocking the starlight behind them. Another striking feature along the arch is the Gum Nebula, seen as a faint ring of red light at the right end of the arch. This nebula, which is around 1500 light-years away, glows red because of its abundance of warm hydrogen gas.

The Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our neighboring galaxies, peeks from the right side of the Blanco dome. Finally, the watercolor-like feathering of red and green light across the sky is known as airglow, a faint light emitted by energized atoms in Earth’s upper atmosphere. 

This photo was taken as part of the recent NOIRLab 2022 Photo Expedition to all the NOIRLab sites.



About the Image

Release date:Oct. 25, 2023, noon
Size:11983 x 4347 px

About the Object

Name:Milky Way

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