The Milky Way Galaxy is home to the solar system and at least 200
billion other stars and their accompanying planets. Some estimate
that the Milky Way contains upwards of 400 billion stars. Also
included in the Milky Way are thousands of clusters and nebulae.
All of the objects in the Milky Way rotate around the Galactic
Center, which is the common center of mass of the galaxy. This
image of the Milky Way was created by combining 16 wide-angle
photographs taken with a standard 35-mm camera and color negative
film. This is a visible image of what the Milky Way looks like.
Because of interstellar dust, only stars within a few thousand
light-years of the sun are visible. These are considered to be
"close" stars in the scale of the Milky Way. The stars are visibly
different in color, mass, size and luminosity.
There are several adaptations of the same All-Sky Map. The All Sky Panorama dataset is simply the image of the All-Sky map that was created by combining
the 16 images. The other datasets use this as a base map. Alpha Centauri on the All Sky Map, Where we live! is exactly the same except for the fact that the
location of Alpha Centauri is labeled on the map. Alpha Centauri is
a location of interest because it is the closet stellar system to
the sun. Alpha Centauri is made up of three stars, the closest of
which is only 4.22 light-years away. It is also an interesting
place because it is considered one of the relatively few locations
in the Milky Way that may offer conditions that are favorable to
terrestrial life. On the scale of this image, Alpha Centauri can be
used to pinpoint the location of the solar system since they are so
close to one another. This dataset has constellation outlines
over the All-Sky map to help the viewer pick out the location of
common constellations. The red line is the plane of the ecliptic.