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The Question

(Submitted May 16, 1998)

I am curious to know why with the HST we can see the galaxies in the deep space image that are billions of light years away, but we can't study or even see the center of our own galaxy?

The Answer

It's not true that we can't study or even see the center of our galaxy. This is a very active research topic for astronomers, particularly using radio, infrared, X-ray and gamma-ray telescopes.

As for seeing the Galactic center: a search in the "Astronomy Picture of the Day" site has turned up 3 nice pictures:

However, it is true that it's hard to see the Galactic center with visible light. This is because of the dust in our own Galaxy, which can be seen in the first of the 3 "APOD" pictures above as dark patches in the Milky Way. Such dust clouds make stars behind them appear much fainter.

Hope this helps. Best Wishes,
Koji Mukai
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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