It’s a purple, gaseous stream, dotted with faint wisps of blue along its exterior and splotches of red bleeding through the interior. The iridescent visual is of the Milky Way’s Galactic Plane, as visible from the southern hemisphere.
Today, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) released the hypnotic image to mark the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL). The new map covers a patch of sky 140 degrees long and 3 degrees wide, which is three times larger than the first map released by ATLASGAL.
To take the image, scientists utilized the APEX’s Large Bolometer Camera (LABOCA).
APEX is located 5,100 m above sea level in Chile’s Chajnantor Plateau. According to the ESO, “LABOCA measures incoming radiation by registering the tiny rise in temperature it causes on its detectors and can detect emission from the cold dark dust bands obscuring the stellar light.”
The information was combined with data from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite. This allows researchers to detect emissions over a larger swath of sky, and estimate “the fraction of dense gas in the inner galaxy,” according to ESO.
“ATLASGAL provides exciting insights into where the next generation of high-mass stars and clusters form,” said Timea Csengeri, of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. “By combining these observations from Planck, we can now obtain a link to the large-scale structures of giant molecular clouds.”
According to ESO, the ATLASGAL survey has already led to the publication of nearly 70 associated scientific papers.