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See a 360-degree visualization of the center of the Milky Way

simulation of the center of the Milky Way

GALACTIC CENTER  Stars (white) and clumps of gas (red) can be seen in this image from a 360-degree visualization of the center of the Milky Way. Gas clumps near the galaxy’s black hole are stretched by gravitational forces (orange smear).

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OXON HILL, Md. — Ever wonder what it would be like to sit at the center of the Milky Way and watch the galaxy swirl by? A video debuted in a January 10 news conference at the American Astronomical Society Meeting provides a glimpse.

The 360-degree-simulation, made with data from several telescopes, including NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, puts viewers at Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole that lurks in the galaxy’s center.

The video depicts about 25 stars (shown in white) that churn through the galaxy’s center over about 500 years. The stars, known as Wolf-Rayet stars, emit winds of gas, shown in red.  As blobs of gas near the supermassive black hole, they are stretched and deformed by the intense gravity — before finally being captured inside.

It’s quite a view — but one you’d never want to experience in real life: The Milky Way’s supermassive black hole has about 4 million times the mass of the sun. Since nothing can escape from inside a black hole, you’d never be able to share what you saw — even if you survived the crushing weight of the behemoth’s gravity.

GALAXY GANDER This 360-degree video gives a simulated view of the environment at the middle of the Milky Way, surrounding the galaxy’s supermassive black hole. Stars (white) orbit the black hole, emitting blobs of gas (red). C. Russell et al./Pontifical Catholic Univ. of Chile, CXC/NASA

Quantum Physics,, Computing

Quantum computers take a step forward with a 50-qubit prototype

By Emily Conover 9:00am, November 10, 2017
Race to build ever-more-powerful processors edges the technology closer to being able to best traditional machines.
Animals,, Agriculture,, Science & Society

EPA OKs first living pest-control mosquito for use in United States

By Susan Milius 6:58pm, November 8, 2017
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Astronomy,, Planetary Science

NASA wants your help naming New Horizons’ next destination

By Mike Denison 2:00pm, November 7, 2017
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Paleontology,, Evolution,, Ecology

What male bias in the mammoth fossil record says about the animal’s social groups

By Carolyn Gramling 12:15pm, November 2, 2017
Male woolly mammoths were more often caught in natural traps that preserved their remains, DNA evidence suggests.
Materials,, Technology

Nobel Prize–winning technique illuminates the fibers that set off battery fires

By Maria Temming 2:00pm, October 26, 2017
Scientists get a closer look at the filaments that ruin lithium-ion batteries from the inside out.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science

Dawn spacecraft will keep orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres indefinitely

By Lisa Grossman 3:15pm, October 20, 2017
NASA just gave the Dawn spacecraft a second mission extension to orbit Ceres indefinitely.

Measured distance within the Milky Way gives clues to what our galaxy looks like

By Lisa Grossman 2:45pm, October 12, 2017
Astronomers used an old but challenging technique to directly measure the distance to a star on the opposite side of the galaxy for the first time.
Animals,, Oceans,, Conservation

New deep-sea sponge could play a starring role in monitoring ocean health

By Carolyn Gramling 7:00am, October 10, 2017
A new species of sponge that dwells on metal-rich rocks could help scientists track the environmental impact of deep-sea mining.
Animals,, Paleontology

Ancient whale turns up on wrong side of the world

By Laurel Hamers 12:00pm, October 9, 2017
A Southern Hemisphere whale species was briefly a northern resident.
Chemistry,, Technology

Cool way to peer into molecules’ inner workings wins chemistry Nobel Prize

By Laurel Hamers 8:04am, October 4, 2017
Three scientists will split the prize for their work developing cryo-electron microscopy.
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