It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but this picture is worthy of tens of billions of stars.
And here is what we see here. This is the plane of our galaxy captured through the “eyes” of a powerful telescope, called the Experimental Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment telescope (APEX), located high on the Chachnantor Plateau in Chile, the Atacama region and the leadership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
The mosaic image represents the completion of a large-scale project Exploration of the vast area of the galaxy (ATLASGAL), made by the APEX telescope. It shows the completeness of the Milky Way plane, which shows the edge of the ring, captured by the APEX from the southern hemisphere. This is the first space shooting in submillimeter waves - the region of the electromagnetic spectrum between infrared and radio waves. Thanks to an amazing 12-meter wide telescope aperture, astronomers can detect much more detail from observations, compared to space telescopes. Submillimeter waves are important for astronomers, since they are generated by gas and dust, having a temperature of only a few tens of degrees above absolute zero. Studying our galaxy in waves of this length can help us better understand the distribution of interstellar gas clouds, which ultimately provide fuel for “childish” stars.
“The ATLASGAL mission gives us a clear understanding of where the next generations of massive stars and clusters are formed,” said Timen Xengeri from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), Bonn, Germany, in a press release. “By combining them with Planck’s observations, we can now get a link to the large-scale structures of giant molecular clouds.”
In the selection of images, ATLASGAL was compared with data from the European Space Observatory of Planck, surveys in visible light and the view from the Spitzer Space Telescope, which sees the universe in the infrared.