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A Never-Before-Seen, 167-Million Pixel Map Of The Milky Way

From Garching near Munich, astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have published a new picture of the Milky Way, sharper and more detailed than any other image before it, with a staggering 167 million pixels.

Taking advantage of the unique and irreplaceable characteristics of the Telescope, the Atlasgal survey managed to come up with a detailed view of the distribution of cold dense has along the galactic plane of the Milky Way, noted for being the place where he majority of a galaxy’s mass lies.
This is a new spectacular image of the Milky Way, released to mark the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL). (ESO) Credit.

The breathtaking image of the Milky Way was taken with the APEX (Atacama Pathfinder Experiment) telescope in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The publication on Wednesday celebrated the completion of the full mapping of the galactic plane from the southern hemisphere, a European project called ESO ATLASGAL (Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy).

The Apex has allowed astronomers to study the cold universe, gas and dust and other cosmic objects that are only a few tens of degrees above absolute zero.

Located at 5100 meters above sea level on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, is the  Atacama Pathfinder Experiment telescope. The altitude and extremely dry atmosphere make the Atacama region in Chile a prime site for astronomers who look at the sky, in hopes of answering many enigmas behind our origins and purpose on this planet.

According to reports from the European Space Agency’s website, “The ATLASGAL survey took advantage of the unique characteristics of the telescope to provide a detailed view of the distribution of cold dense gas along the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. The new image includes most of the regions of star formation in the southern Milky Way”.

The APEX telescope in Chile has mapped the full area of the Galactic Plane visible from the southern hemisphere at submillimetre wavelengths — between infrared light and radio waves. This is the sharpest such map yet made, and complements those from recent space-based surveys. The pioneering 12-metre APEX telescope allows astronomers to study the cold Universe: gas and dust only a few tens of degrees above absolute zero.

The region seen in the breathtaking image is of particular interest for astronomers as it includes numerous areas of star formation. The process that lasted for three years covers 420 square degrees of the sky, with each image tile having a resolution of 3.5 megapixels.

‘Atlasgal maps the dust, which traces the hydrogen, but there are many other elements out there, which is why we are following up with other observations using Apex and other telescopes,’ said Carlos De Breuck, ESO APEX Programme Scientist from Germany.

To browse the entire image (at a resolution of 167 million pixels), please visit the following link by clicking –> here <– (and prepare to be amazed).

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