The image you see above is from a survey of the Milky Way and is currently the biggest, most complete view of the cold galaxy ever made. It covers 140 degrees in length and 3 degrees in width and is nearly four times larger than a previous survey from 2009. The completed image is thanks to a decade-long observation and marks the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL).
The APEX telescope, a 40-foot monster located in a Chilean desert, mapped the full area of the Galactic Plane at submillimeter wavelengths, which lie between infrared light and radio waves. The telescopes gives astronomers the ability to study gas and dust only a few tens of degrees above absolute zero.
The entire image is actually the result of a collaboration between APEX, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and ESA’s Planck satellite.
“ATLASGAL provides exciting insights into where the next generation of high-mass stars and clusters form,” said Timea Csengeri from Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. “Buy combining these with observations from Planck, we can now obtain a link to the large-scale structures of giant molecular clouds.”
Check out the video above, which shows just how detailed, and extensive, the image is.