Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Great Rift over Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile

The Great Rift over Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile

Is that a cosmic crack in the sky? No, it is just the colossal clouds of dust in the Milky Way known as the Great Rift. In this stunning image from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a Program of the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab, the Great Rift’s dark clouds appear to slice in half the Milky Way’s river of starlight.

Running vertically through this image, the Great Rift reminds us that our Milky Way is not simply a collection of stars. It is host to a staggering amount of interstellar dust. In fact, the Great Rift alone contains a million Suns’ worth of it! This opaque cloud complex is made of ultrafine particles around ten times smaller than pollen. Despite their diminutive size, acting together, they can obscure the light from the brightest part of the galaxy.

Another cloud of dust is also visible from this view. Running diagonally downward from the top left of this image is a band of interplanetary dust. Its conical white glow is known as the zodiacal light. Unlike the Great Rift, which is dark and far beyond our cosmic neighborhood, this dust is bright and within the confines of our Solar System. Its faint white glow is caused by reflected sunlight. Note that at the upper left, within the band of zodiacal light, is dazzling Venus. To its immediate right are Mars and Saturn, respectively.

This image was taken by Tomas Slovinsk√Ĺ, a NOIRLab Audiovisual Ambassador.

Image Credits: Tomas Slovinsky; CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

Location: -30.1732, -70.8035 

Caption Credit: Tomas Slovinsky

Tomas' Website:

Release Date: April 24, 2024

#NASA #Astronomy #Space #Science #MilkyWayGalaxy #GreatRift #Planets #Venus #Mars #Saturn #Earth #ZodiacalLight #CTIO #AtacamaDesert #Chile #SouthAmerica #SouthernHemisphere #Astrophotographer #TomasSlovinsky #Astrophotography #CitizenScience #NOIRLab #NSF #AURA #UnitedStates #STEM #Education #EPoD

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