What is the Galactic Center?

The stars at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy

If you don’t live by the bright lights of the city and can see the fuzzy arch of the Milky Way Galaxy overhead at night, you’ll have a chance to gaze upon the Galactic Center itself!  The Galactic Center is the point around which the rest of our galaxy rotates.  You can find it if you look in the direction of the constellations Sagittarius, Scorpius, and Ophiuchus where the Milky Way looks the brightest.

Since our view of center of the galaxy is occluded by lanes of dust and gas, we can’t see it with visible light.  Instead, we have to rely on telescopes that can provide us information from radio, infrared and gamma ray sources.  It appears as though the immense radio source, Sagittarius A is located in the center of our galaxy.  It just so happens that this location coincides with the suspected location of a super-massive black hole.  The source of the radio activity is probably accretion disk of gas and matter surrounding the black hole itself. 

The Center of the Milky Way Galaxy

The Center of the Milky Way Galaxy

So what would the Galactic Center look like?  If we could travel there and we could get past the immense gravity well of the black hole at the center of our galaxy, we’d be able to look upon an enormous collection of thousands of stars packed closely together.  Most of them would be older, red, main sequence stars.  There is a good chance you might also find some younger stars here as well due to the rich amount of star forming material gathered close to the central black hole.

Here’s a thought to ponder…..since black holes consume any matter and light that get caught in their gravational pull AND we are orbiting this black hole, how long before we are dragged into it?

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