Galactic Plane: Centaurus

Basic Information

What is this?

A view of a region looking at the gas and dust in the disc of our Galaxy, which we see edge on

Where is it in the sky?

In the constellation of Centaurus

How big is it?

The image is around 12 degrees across, or around 24 times the width of the Full Moon as seen from Earth

How far away is it?

Most of the gas and dust is thousands of light years away

What do the colours represent?

Bluer material is warmer, being heated by newly formed stars, while the redder regions are colder material much further from the star formation

This is a region of the disc of our Galaxy as seen by Herschel's SPIRE and PACS cameras. Since we are located in the disc of the Galaxy we see it edge-on. The image shows an area of the sky that is around 12 degrees across and 2 degrees tall, or around 100 times the area of the Full Moon as seen from Earth. It is located in the constellation of Centaurus, and looks past the location of the Sun's closest neighbour, Alpha Centauri - though Herschel doesn't see stars, but instead the gas and dust between the stars. Most of the material in this image is thousands of light years away. The full region is shown below.

The full 12 degree across region seen by Hi-Gal
The full region as seen by SPIRE and PACS. Click here for the original resolution image (warning: 19MB file!). Image credit: ESA/Herschel/Hi-GAL.

The image is composed of five regions, centred on a galactic longitude of 314o. The blue material shows gas and dust that is being heated by newly formed stars in the disc of our Galaxy, while the redder material is much colder, sometimes only around 10 degrees above abolsute zero. The Hi-Gal survey that this image is a part of is trying to investigate the properties of dust in our galaxy, such as how much there is and what role it plays in the formation of stars on the largest scales.

The five regions observed are visible below.

Detailed Information

Object Name: 
Galactic Plane
Type of Object: 
Interstellat Medium
Image Scale: 
The image is 12 degrees across and 2 degrees wide
Coordinates: 
Right Ascension: 14h 28m 54s ; Declination: -61° 38′ 41″
Constellation: 
Centaurus the Centaur
Instrument: 
SPIRE and PACS
Wavelengths: 
70 to 500 mucrons
Distance of Object: 
Most of the gas and dust is thousands of light years away
Date of Release: 
21/09/2011
Key Programme: