ECKHARD SLAWIK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ECKHARD SLAWIK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Milky Way. Optical image of the Milky Way near the south celestial pole. North is at top. The Milky Way is a band of light formed from the millions of stars in the plane of our galaxy. At far right is the pink Eta Carinae nebula. Above and left of this is the small constellation Crux, the Southern Cross, with the Coal Sack (a dust cloud blocking light from the Milky Way) just to its left. Above and left of the Coal Sack are the bright stars Hadar (Beta Centauri, blue) and Alpha Centauri (white). Alpha Centauri is the closest visible star to the Sun, just 4.3 light years away. The south celestial pole is at lower centre, but is not marked by any bright stars.
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