Infrared Legacy


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Rho Ophiuchi & The Galactic Center


We see the brignt band of the Milky Way Galaxy spanning the bottom of this image, with the Rho Ophiuchi dust cloud floating above. This large swath of infrared sky is 60 degrees in width, and the blue, green, and red colors correspond to the 12, 60, and 100 micron bands observed by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS).

The brightest emission arises from the very distant clouds of dust that fill the disk of our Galaxy much of it many thousands of light years distant. The brightest bulge just left of middle is the very core of the Milky Way, in the direction of the constellation Sagitarius.

The cloud of interstellar dust looming above the Galactic plane is a large region of star formation around the star known as Rho Ophiuchi. This cloud is much closer to us, just under 500 light years away. The cloud glows brightly in the infrared light as numerous new stars forming within the cloud heat the dust which surrounds them. The greenish glow to the lower right of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud comes from dust surrounding and heated by the hot young binary star Sigma Scorpii. The filaments and wisps extending out from these two clouds are due to tenuous interstellar dust concentrations probably associated with the central clouds.

Image credits: IRAS/MONTAGE/R. Hurt