How our galaxy might look from outside
New research suggests that, as seen from the outside, the central bulge of our Milky Way galaxy shows up as a peanut-shaped glowing ball of stars, while the spiral arms and their associated dust clouds form a narrow band.
One of the most important and massive parts of the galaxy is the galactic bulge. This huge central cloud of about 10,000 million stars spans thousands of light-years, but its structure and origin are not well understood. Why not, when it’s our home galaxy? Because, from our vantage point from within the galactic disk, our view of this central region — at about 27,000 light-years’ distance — is heavily obscured by dense clouds of gas and dust.
Astronomers can only obtain a good view of the bulge by observing longer wavelength light, such as infrared radiation, which can penetrate the dust clouds.