Striking submillimeter image reveals Milky Way in unprecedented detail
The European Southern Observatory (ESO)has completed the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy(ATLASGAL), releasing the stunning new imagery to mark the occasion. The survey covers the full area of the Galactic Plane asseen from the southern hemisphere, revealing it in submillimeterwavelengths for the first time ever.
The ATLASGAL data was collected by theAtacama Pathfinder EXperiment telescope (APEX), located 5,100 m (16,700 ft)above sea level on Chile's Chajnantor Plateau. The effort wasdesigned to harness the APEX telescope's ability to provide a clearand detailed view of the distribution of dense gases just a few tensof degrees above absolute zero, located along the plane of thegalaxy.
The project made use of the telescope'sLarge Bolometer Camera (LABOCA), which measures incoming radiation bylooking at minute changes in temperature. It's able to detectemmisions from the thick bands of dust that obscure the light fromdistant stars.
The imagery released today shows the APEX data in red, with the background blue image taken at shorter wavelengths by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The new information isn't just visuallystunning, but will also help scientists improve our knowledge of theMilky Way, combining the data with that from the European SpaceAgency's (ESA) Planck satellite to learn more about the innerGalaxy's dense gases.
"ATLASGAL has allowed us to have anew and transformational look at the dense interstellar medium of ourgalaxy, the Milky Way," said the ESO's Leonardo Testi. "The newrelease of the full survey opens up the possibility to mine thismarvellous dataset for new discoveries."
Speaking of spectacular images of our home galaxy, check out this 20 gigapixel panorama released in 2014, using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.