This image of the central portion of our Galaxy was produced from observations made by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). The infrared telescope carried by IRAS sees through the dust and gas that obscures stars and other objects when viewed by optical telescopes. The bright band running diagonally across the picture is caused by clouds of interstellar dust and gas which are concentrated in the central plane of our Galaxy. The bulge in the center of the band is the center of the Galaxy. The yellow and green knots and blobs scattered along the band are giant clouds of interstellar gas and dust heated by nearby stars. Some are warmed by newly formed stars in the surrounding cloud, and some are heated by nearby massive, hot, blue stars tens of thousands of times brighter than our sun. The warmest material (including warm dust in our solar system) is represented by blue while colder material is shown as red. The picture covers a field of view of about 48 degrees by 33 degrees.
INFRARED PROCESSING AND ANALYSIS CENTER