Portrait of the Galaxy is a snapshot from a 3d rendering of a galaxy that displays the complex structure of the gas component of the simulation. This gas component is difficult to observe in real telescopes but with visualizations and simulations like these we can begin to understand how to probe the invisible part of the universe. This gas reservoir is what will eventually go on to become the visible stars, and by looking at the shadows the gas casts from the starlight of the surrounding galaxy we can understand its structure and composition. This visualization in particular highlights the smoothness of the background stars to the clumpiness of the gas they formed from.
A snapshot in time of a supercomputer simulation of a Milky Way-like galaxy. Each dot is a particle in the simulation. The spiral disk of blue stars is mimicked in the red gas tendrils, while the yellow dark matter forms a spherical “halo.”