The core of our galaxy

Allegedly "hundreds of millions" of light-years across

Added 2002-01-11

Today's National Post newspaper carries a full-colour picture right across the front page—above the fold, yet—with a caption that reads, in part, “A NASA observatory orbiting Earth has provided this mosaic image, measuring hundreds of millions of light-years across, of the core of our galaxy.”

The image itself may be seen at the Chandra web site: X-Ray Mosaic Of Galactic Center. The offending National Post caption is reproduced in the online version of the story, now available only at

I immediately sent a “shocked and appalled” letter to the editor.

So what's the problem with the caption? It isn't the grammar, although the grammar stinks (there's no way the image is that big, eh). The fact is that the entire Milky Way galaxy, never mind its core, is 90,000 to 100,000 light years across, tops. The story itself clearly states that the image shows a region between 400 and 900 light years across.

Caption writer, go to your room.

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