Moving to the middle of the Australian Outback afforded me the opportunity to see the core of the Milky Way directly at zenith—a feat unimaginable in the northern hemisphere. The view of our galaxy from its center to the Southern Cross is obscenely bright—the brightest of the full disk—with obvious dark lanes crisscrossing the brightness. I wanted to better understand what I was seeing, but all the visualization maps I found left correlation with the galactic structure too much to the imagination.
I stumbled across a plan view of the galaxy by Robert Hurt of Caltech (published in 2008) that reminded me of a seating chart for an opera. I found I could use this optic against ESO's wicked 360˚ panorama of the galaxy to finally appreciate what I was seeing. I created a rectilinear projection of the central 120˚ swath and mapped it to Hurt's seating chart; this allowed me to perceive where we are in the galaxy and how we're moving relative to what we can see. This has resulted in a completely different perspective when I go out and observe it.
The galactic hub is center stage. The galaxy is comprised of two full spiral arms (the Centaurus Arm, originating in front of the hub, just left of center stage, and the Perseus Arm, originating behind the hub, just right of center stage). It also contains several more weakly defined arm-like structures. Our seat in the solar system is in a weak structure (the Orion Spur) that joins the two, with the Perseus arm coming off the stage to the left and wrapping around behind us and ending offstage to our right. When we look center stage , we're looking through the Centaurus Arm and at least three additional structures (the Sagittarius Arm, the Norma Arm, and the Near 3kpc Arm). All of these structures are coming with us in our clockwise march (from above) around the core. The galactic structure toward Eta Carinae is coming toward us; the structure toward Scutum is moving away.
While all of this may seem trivial, it's impressive to recognize that this is the largest structure for which a single human can appreciate his or her orientation with the naked eye. This provides a powerful perspective when sharing cosmology with a budding or aspiring astronomer; it's fun to conclude with the fact that the galaxy has only made 30 full turns in the entire existence of the Earth and less than one in all of humanity.