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Hubble captures amazing view of Milky Way

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The Milky Way galaxy, through the Hubble telescope (Photo: NASA)

The Milky Way galaxy, through the Hubble telescope (Photo: NASA)

(CNN) — Stars upon stars upon stars.

In a new image, the Hubble Space Telescope peers into the center of the Milky Way, showcasing the star cluster at the center.

According to NASA, the photo contains more than a half-million stars. The star cluster is the densest in the galaxy.

Much of the light cast by those heavenly bodies is in the form of infrared radiation, so scientists translated Hubble’s handiwork into visible colors. Even at that, the image shows great clouds of gas and dust — “so thick that even Hubble’s infrared capability could not penetrate them,” a NASA press release noted.

The star cluster is 27,000 light-years away, and the Hubble photo — which was stitched together from nine separate images — spans a distance of 50 light-years, or about 300 trillion miles.

The word “galaxy,” incidentally, is derived from the Greek for “Milky Way.” Hubble’s photos are giving a whole new depth to the word.

NASA wrote on its page with the photo:

“Hubble’s infrared vision pierced the dusty heart of our Milky Way galaxy to reveal more than half a million stars at its core. Except for a few blue, foreground stars, the stars are part of the Milky Way’s nuclear star cluster, the most massive and densest stellar cluster in our galaxy. Located 27,000 light-years away, this region is so packed with stars, it is equivalent to having a million suns crammed into the volume of space between us and our closest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light-years away. At the very hub of our galaxy, this star cluster surrounds the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole, which is about 4 million times the mass of our sun.”