Herschel provides stunning video of galactic panorama
The European SpaceAgency has released a stunning video constructed from data collectedby the Herschel space observatory over the course of its shortoperational life. The video displays a detailed panorama of the MilkyWay as seen from our perspective in the Orion Spur of the Perseus spiral arm.
Compared to otherorbital observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope,Herschel's working life could be considered excessively brief,spanning as it did just a few years between 2009 - 2013.Nevertheless, in this short time, Herschel undertook vast catalogingcampaigns in the sub-millimetre and far-infrared wavelengths, whichallowed the telescope to reveal the complex disposition of star-forming materials such as cosmic dust.
The largest of theseundertakings was known as the Herschel Infrared Galactic PlaneSurvey. The newly-released video stands as a visual representation ofthe 900 hours (roughly 40 days) worth of observations that were sunkinto this colossal effort.
The video was stitched together from 70 individual maps compiled by theHerschel mission team, with the entire panorama displaying around twopercent of the sky, and roughly 40 percent of the Milky Way's centralplane. Due to the fact that the central plane plays host to themajority of the stars in our galaxy, it is readily observable to thenaked eye as a bright band streaking across a clear night sky.
To allow us toappreciate, and attempt to understand the complex nature of the sceneunfolding in the video, the otherwise invisible infrared wavelengthsobserved by Herschel have been assigned visible colors.
Diffuse interstellarmatter serves as the backdrop for denser filamentary structures andnebulae. The panorama is also riddled with the various stages ofstellar evolution, from compact regions of gas ready to ignite, tofully fledged stars, whose solar winds are working to sculpt thesurrounding material.
The maps come complete with a source catalog for each of the fivewavelengths of light recorded by Herschel. It is hoped that the dataset will aide researchers to carryout further studies on stellar evolution and the distribution ofstellar nurseries.
Scroll down to view the newly-released Herschel video, courtesy of ESA.