<p>A laser beam seems to pierce the <a id="e74p" title="Milky Way" href="http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/maps/print-collection/milky-way.html">Milky Way</a> above the Yepun telescope in August at the European Space Observatory's <a id="q6gv" title="Very Large Telescope array" href="http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/vlt.html">Very Large Telescope array</a> in Chile.</p><p>Yepun's beam creates an artificial star 56 miles (90 kilometers) up in Earth's atmosphere. The so called Laser Guide Star helps astronomers correct for the atmosphere's blurring effect as the telescope images the sky.</p><p>By aiming the laser toward the Milky Way's center, researchers can better monitor the galactic core where a central supermassive <a id="qga_" title="black hole" href="http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/universe/black-holes-article.html">black hole</a>—surrounded by closely orbiting stars—is swallowing gas and dust, according to the ESO website.</p><p>(See <a id="fr3a" title="&quot;Hundreds of &amp;squot;Rogue&amp;squot; Black Holes May Roam Milky Way.&quot;" href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/01/080110-black-holes.html">"Hundreds of 'Rogue' Black Holes May Roam Milky Way."</a>)</p>

Shot Through the Heart

A laser beam seems to pierce the Milky Way above the Yepun telescope in August at the European Space Observatory's Very Large Telescope array in Chile.

Yepun's beam creates an artificial star 56 miles (90 kilometers) up in Earth's atmosphere. The so called Laser Guide Star helps astronomers correct for the atmosphere's blurring effect as the telescope images the sky.

By aiming the laser toward the Milky Way's center, researchers can better monitor the galactic core where a central supermassive black hole—surrounded by closely orbiting stars—is swallowing gas and dust, according to the ESO website.

(See "Hundreds of 'Rogue' Black Holes May Roam Milky Way.")

Photograph courtesy Yuri Beletsky, ESO

Space Photos: Galaxy Laser, Moon Bridge, More

See a galactic garbage truck, the first ever evidence of a natural bridge on the Moon, and more in this week's best space pictures.

Read This Next

The most ancient galaxies in the universe are coming into view
‘Microclots’ could help solve the long COVID puzzle
How Spain’s lust for gold doomed the Inca Empire

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet