26 February 2016

The most detailed picture of the Milky Way was take from the Atacama desert

The southern European Observatory (ESO), with the help of the Max Planck Institute and the University of Chile, put together the most complete Galactic map of the southern hemisphere so far.

A scientific team recently finished the most complete blueprint of the milky to date. The image was published by ESO (European Southern Observatory), an intergovernmental organization of science and technology, and it was considered a milestone that marks the culmination of the ATLASGAL project, which was meant to explore a large portion of the Galaxy. This was made possible by using the APEX (Atacama Pathfinder Experiment) instrument, a telescope with 12 meters in diameter that operates at millimetre and sub-millimetre wavelengths, installed on the Chajnantor plateau.

The telescope made a map of the complete area of the observable Galactic plane from the southern hemisphere, and it has achieved greater detail than any other attempt to date, including those carried out in space. In an unprecedented achievement, the distribution of gas and the regions of the Galaxy where stars are forming were captured with great precision, generating a 187-million-pixel image.

The scientist Carlos De Breuck told BBC news that the astronomers have “a general idea of how stars from the condensation of gas clouds are formed, but still missing some details. To find out, for example, which stars are formed from what kind of clouds, we need more information, we need to map the Galaxy to determine under which conditions they are generated”. Thus, the map that resulted from this large probe will allow them to explore the interstellar medium in our Galaxy, serving simultaneously as a platform to make new discoveries.

Scientists from the University of Chile, ESO, from the Max Planck Institute of Astronomy and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy participated in this momentous project.

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