This stunning image (Photo Release ESO1118) of the NGC 6744 Galaxy, from the European Southern Observatory‘s La Silla Observatory in Chile, represents the best look yet at what our own Milky Way Galaxy may look like.
Humans have not been able to reach far enough to image our Galaxy from the outside, although some projects have attempted to generate an image from within, using special optics and calculations. For example, two teams headed by Sean Carey of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology and Edward Churchwell of the University of Wisconsin, used 800,000 pictures from the Spitzer Space Telescope to create an insightful view of the inner Milky Way Galaxy.
At the time, this image (Credit: JPL) was billed as the highest resolution infrared picture ever taken of our Galaxy.
GLIMPSE, Galactic Legacy Infrared Midplane Extraordinaire, was a more extensive survey conducted by the IRAC instrument on board Spitzer Space Telescope to generate an incredible high-resolution panoramic view of our Galaxy. The best way to explore this captivating picture is the online GLIMPSE Image Viewer, hosted by the Space Science Institute.
While the new image from ESO is not actually of the Milky Way, astronomers indicate that it is the best representation currently available. Moreover, we are fortunate that the angles worked out so that we get an ‘over-head’ view.