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Starts With A Bang

Mostly Mute Monday: New map of the Milky Way now complete!

And it reveals the future of our galaxy’s unborn stars.

“True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.” –Jean Cocteau

Our atmosphere is great for viewing the Milky Way in visible light, but other wavelengths are mostly blocked.

Image credit: ESO/S. Brunier, of the Milky Way as seen from Earth in visible light, as part of the GigaGalaxyZoom project.

This is too bad, because the dust in our galaxy blocks visible light, leaving much of the Universe unexplored.

Atmospheric transmission windows as a function of wavelength. Images credit: Created as part of the project ENGL / EMIR Carsten Stech (top, with absorption/transmission features); NASA / Wikimedia Commons user Mysid (bottom), edits by E. Siegel.

Earth has a few narrow “windows,” however, where the atmospheric gases allow light of particular wavelength ranges to penetrate.

The view of the galactic center in four different wavelength bands. Atop, from the ATLASGAL survey at 870 microns; below that, from Spitzer in the mid-IR; below that, from ESO’s VISTA in the near-IR, and at the bottom in visible light, where the dust obscures everything of interest. Image credit: ESO/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/VVV Survey/ESA/Planck/D. Minniti/S. Guisard. Acknowledgement: Ignacio Toledo, Martin Kornmesser.

Rather than needing to go to space to map the Universe, we can build ground based telescopes and arrays capable of gathering far more light than a space-based observatory.

Image credit: ESO/H.H.Heyer, of the 12-m APEX telescope.

In the Chilean plateaus, a 12-meter radio telescope known as the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX) just mapped the entire southern galactic plane at unprecedented wavelengths: the sub-millimeter, between the infrared and the radio.

More than 70 scientific papers have already been published, but most fabulous of all are the images.

The latest composite release, from the ATLASGAL collaboration. Image credit: ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/ESA/Planck.

These wavelengths map the cold dust, which will form the next generation of stars in our galactic plane.

The latest composite release, from the ATLASGAL collaboration. Image credit: ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/ESA/Planck.

While all the other infrared wavelengths hide this dust from view, this latest survey, the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL), beats even space-based surveys for resolution.

Enjoy this first-time view of our galaxy’s future stars.

Mostly Mute Monday tells the story of a single astronomical phenomenon or object in pictures and other visuals, with no more than 200 words of text.

This post first appeared at Forbes. Leave your comments on our forum, check out our first book: Beyond The Galaxy, and support our Patreon campaign!

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