the fine folks who brought you the galaxy zoo have just revealed another of their endlessly creative and interactive tools: the milky way project!
you can now view our Galaxy in the fantastic colors of infrared light provided by the spitzer space telescope. not only can you enjoy looking at the beautiful features spread throughout our home galaxy, you can help astronomers identify bubbles, knots, stars clusters, supernova remnants, never before-seen distant galaxies and any other strange new objects that look intriguing to your eyes. ultimately, we need to better understand the physics of the mysterious cold, dusty material that emits light at infrared wavelengths and now its possible for you to help!
"The material that we see in this project is dark to the naked eye. By looking in the infrared we pick out material that is not hot but rather cooler, and hence it does not emit visible light, but instead lower-energy infrared wavelengths. However there are still regions of yet colder and denser material that remain dark even to Spitzer's infrared red eye. These infrared dark clouds are stark silhouettes on the brighter, usually green material seen in the images on this site."
see that big dark spot in the middle of the image below? its a "dark nebula" and is possibly a private nursery where new massive stars are forming, hidden by a curtain of cold gas and dust!
here is a quick tutorial demonstrating how easy it is to interact with the images:
The Milky Way Project - Getting Started from The Zooniverse on Vimeo.
now GO and get drawing!
(well done rob et al.!)