Astronomers have unveiled a huge, gorgeous new image of the Milky Way. It's the result of the ATLASGAL project — a complete survey of our galaxy's interstellar dust. That's right. Dust.
Space is full of dust, and the APEX telescope in Chile is able to detect it. When you map the galaxy's dust, you map the galaxy.
You can think of the new image as a portrait of the Milky Way, but from the side. So it's a very long and thin photo, but incredibly detailed.
The highlights you can see include nebulas where stars are being born and the crowded galactic center, which surrounds a supermassive black hole.