(July 20, 2011) A bizarre, twisted ring of dense gas at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy has been observed by the Herschel Space Observatory.
Only a few portions of the ring, which stretches across more than 600 light-years, were known before.
But Herschel's view reveals the entire ring for the first time - and a strange kink that resembles a ribbon has astronomers scratching their heads.
Nasa researcher Alberto Noriega-Crespo, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said: 'We have looked at this region at the centre of the Milky Way many times before in the infrared.
'But when we looked at the high-resolution images using Herschel's sub-millimetre wavelengths, the presence of a ring is quite clear.'
The Herschel Space Observatory is a European Space Agency-led mission with important Nasa contributions.
It sees infrared and sub-millimetre light, which can readily penetrate through the dust hovering between the bustling centre of our galaxy and us.