Galactic Rainbow

The Milky Way hangs poised over the Gemini South telescope

The colorful band of the Milky Way is poised above the 8.1-meter Gemini South telescope of NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory in this arresting image, which depicts bright patches of stars threaded through with winding lanes of dust. The Galactic Center hangs directly above the telescope, framing one of the most powerful astronomical observatories in the southern hemisphere.

The picture also captures the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, which appear on the left side of the image. These dwarf irregular galaxies are satellites of the Milky Way, and lack the conspicuous spiral arms of larger nearby galaxies such as the Andromeda Galaxy (also part of the Local Group of galaxies which includes our Milky Way). Despite being a fraction of the size of the Milky Way, the Magellanic Clouds contain billions of stars, and together they are a prominent feature of southern night skies.

The Gemini South telescope pictured here is one of two telescopes making up the Gemini Observatory. Gemini South is perched atop Cerro Pachón in the Chilean Andes, while the Gemini North telescope surveys the northern hemisphere from Maunakea in Hawaiʻi. Both telescopes enjoy superb observing conditions, and together these astronomical twins can observe the entire night sky.

Gemini South will soon be joined on Cerro Pachón by the 8.4-meter Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), a revolutionary telescope which will survey the entire visible sky at optical wavelengths every few nights. The LSST is designed to enable science in fields ranging from the nature of dark matter to the structure and formation of the Milky Way. Both the LSST operations and the US participation in the international Gemini Observatory are Programs of the NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory.

Astrophotographer Kwon o chul captured this image as part of a time-lapse series for planetariums. The panorama was constructed by stitching together 10 images, each taken with an exposure of 15 seconds.


International Gemini Observatory/NSF’s NOIRLab/AURA/Kwon o chul

About the Image

Release date:Dec. 25, 2019, 3 a.m.
Related releases:noirlab2128
Size:23116 x 7705 px

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