Showing off the Milky Way clouds like never before, a new cosmic map covers our galaxy's densest regions of star formation.
APEX, the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment telescope, is located at 5100 metres above sea level on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile's Atacama region. 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 new ATLASGAL maps cover an area of sky 140 degrees long and 3 degrees wide, more than four times larger than the first ATLASGAL release. The new maps are also of higher quality, as some areas were re-observed to obtain a more uniform data quality over the whole survey area.
The new release of ATLASGAL complements observations from ESA's Planck satellite. The combination of the Planck and APEX data allowed astronomers to detect emission spread over a larger area of sky and to estimate from it the fraction of dense gas in the inner Galaxy. The ATLASGAL data were also used to create a complete census of cold and massive clouds where new generations of stars are forming.
ATLASGAL provides exciting insights into where the next generation of high-mass stars and clusters form. By combining these with observations from Planck, a link to the large-scale structures of giant molecular clouds can be obtained, said Timea Csengeri from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR).
Leonardo Testi from ESO concluded that the new release of the full survey opens up the possibility to mine this marvellous dataset for new discoveries.