Astronomers have created a fascinating map that reveals where in the galaxy new stars are born.
Researchers have long suspected that there were regions full of dense, super-chilled gas in the Milky Way, but these regions have been notoriously difficult to pinpoint. According to a report from the BBC, however, researchers working with the Apex telescope in the Atacama Desert have made the most detailed map of the different gases making up our galaxy to date.
The Apex telescope peers into space from an altitude of 5,100 meters. So far, it has used radiation that lies between radio and infrared sections of the spectrum to map a massive section of the southern sky with a highly sensitive thermometer.
The Large Bolometer Camera, or Laboca, registers minute changes in temperature. The camera is kept at less than 0.3 degrees above absolute zero, and is the key component in the Apex telescope that allowed astronomers to create this new detailed map of the galaxy and the different types of gas throughout.
The map was called Atlasgal, short for the Apex Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy. The project has ben producing scientific papers on the composition of the galaxy since 2009.
The most recent release covers a 140 degree-long area, covering more than four times the area of the last map. The new map offers a glimpse of the Milky Way like you’ve never seen before, in stunning detail.
According to Timea Csengeri from the Ma Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, “Atlasgal provides exciting insights into where the next generation of high-mass stars and clusters form.” The new map could point scientists in the direction of stellar nurseries within the galaxy, which would offer valuable insight into the way the Milky Way formed and evolved over the years.
The survey adds to existing maps of sections of the Northern Milky Way, and allows scientist to step back and take a more complete view of the galaxy. It can point research efforts to more specific star clusters that may hold the answers to long-standing mysteries about the galaxy and our place within it.
A press release from the ESO describing the details of the new map can be found here.