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New Map Captures Milky Way's Gas And Dust

Update Date: Feb 25, 2016 08:48 AM EST

An amazing new image of the Milky Way has been released by The European Southern Observatory (ESO). It captures the galaxy's gas and dust just a few tens of degrees above absolute zero. This marks the end of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL).

This region of the Galactic Plane that can be seen from the southern hemisphere can be observed in a picture produced by picking up submillimeter wavelengths. This is more detailed than other recent space surveys.

The new map has used information gained from the APEX telescope in Chile. It covers one region of the sky 140 degrees long and three degrees wide---more than four times the size of the first ATLASGAL release. It also has a higher level of quality.

The map also used information from ESA's Planck satellite, which enabled the scientists to detect emissions from a larger area of sky. The study was published in the Dec.23, 2015 issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics.

"ATLASGAL provides exciting insights into where the next generation of high-mass stars and clusters form. By combining these with observations from Planck, we can now obtain a link to the large-scale structures of giant molecular clouds," Timea Csengeri, who participated in the project, said in a press release.

One instrument of APEX that is crucial to the creation of the new image is the LArge BOlometer Camera (LABOCA), which assesses incoming radiation, with an analysis of the small temperature rises that it stimulates. It picks up emissions from the dark---low-temperature dust bands that block stellar light.

"ATLASGAL has allowed us to have a new and transformational look at the dense interstellar medium of our own galaxy, the Milky Way," said Leonardo Testi, a member of the ATLASGAL team. "The new release of the full survey opens up the possibility to mine this marvellous dataset for new discoveries. Many teams of scientists are already using the ATLASGAL data to plan for detailed ALMA follow-up."

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