This is why our galaxy is called the Milky Way

This absolutely stunning image was taken in Spain's Canary Islands by astrophotographer Juan Carlos Casado. The image combines nine different photos and reveals the band of our Milky Way galaxy in a way our unaided eyes never could.

A NASA astronomers explains how this photo reveals the full glory of the Milky Way:

In a clear sky from a dark location at the right time, a faint band of light is visible across the sky. This band is the disk of our spiral galaxy. Since we are inside this disk, the band appears to encircle the Earth. The above spectacular picture of the Milky Way arch, however, goes where the unaided eye cannot. The image is actually a deep digital fusion of nine photos that create a panorama fully 360 across. Taken recently in Teide National Park in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, the image includes the Teide volcano, visible near the image center, behind a volcanic landscape that includes many large rocks. Far behind these Earthly structures are many sky wonders that are visible to the unaided eye, such as the band of the Milky Way, the bright waxing Moon inside the arch, and the Pleiades open star cluster.

Check out NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day for an annotated guide to the various stars in the band, plus the original, full hi-res panorama. For more on Juan Carlos Casado's work, check out TWAN and the Spanish language site Starry Earth.

Via NASA. Check out even more amazing Milky Way imagery here, here, and here.