European Southern Observatory (ESO) has revealed the most comprehensive image of the Milky Way to mark the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL). The recent achievement of the team gives us the most detailed view of the galaxy and is four times larger than any other image of galaxy. This image was captured by the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment telescope (APEX), located in Chile’s Atacama region on the Chajnantor Plateau, 5,100 meters above the sea level. The new ATLASGAL maps cover an area of sky 140 degrees long and 3 degrees wide.
Image Credit: ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL
This survey is the first to capture the Galactic Plane, including most of the regions of star formation in the Milky Way Galaxy that allowed the scientists to visualize gas and dust clouds with temperatures just above absolute zero. Erin Blakemore says “Cooled to just a fraction above absolute zero, the camera detects tiny emissions from bands of dark gas and dust that can't be viewed by the naked eye."
The team used supersensitive instruments, The Large Bolometer Camera (LABOCA). It measures the incoming radiations by recording the tiny rise in temperature it causes on its detectors. ESO says that this instrument can detect emission from the cold dark dust bands concealing the stellar light.
Leonardo Testi from ATLASGAL, and the team memberof the European Project Scientist for the ALMA project explained “ATLASGAL has allowed us to have a new and transformational look at the dense interstellar medium of the Milky Way. The new release of the full survey opens up the possibility to mine this stunning dataset for new discoveries. Many teams of scientists are already using the ATLASGAL data to plan for detailed ALMA follow-up."
This ATLASGAL’s break-through will allow the researchers to determine how our galaxy acts and what it's composed of. A more detailed analysis will expose more about our galactic past and where our Solar System might go in the future.