STEPHEN & DONNA O'MEARA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY STEPHEN & DONNA O'MEARA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
The center, or hub, of the Milky Way. Seen in places with dark skies, such as Hawaii, the Milky Way, forms a distinct hazy band of light that slices across the dome of the sky. The Milky Way marks the location of the galactic plane and its source of illumination is the light from myriad stars in the galactic disk. It is broadest and brightest at the constellation Sagittarius, for this is where the center of our galaxy forms a massive egg-shaped bulge. The galactic bulge is also the point around which the disk of the spiral galaxy rotates. Our Milky Way measures about 100,000 light years in diameter, about 3,000 light years in thickness, and about 250,000 light years in circumference. Note how it is dappled with dark clouds of dust, which obscure the light from stars beyond them. One particular dust patch (upper right) is known as the Dark Horse. The Dark Horses hind portion is another dusty feature known as Barnards Pipe. Photographed August 2005.
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