The team running the APEX telescope in Chile has released what is the most complete map of the cold gas in the Milky Way galaxy ever seen, reports the European Southern Observatory. The map, which is a series of images shot by three different telescopes, marks the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL).
The decade-long survey was undertaken to create the most detailed map of areas of cold gas in our galaxy. Cold gas areas are of particular importance to astronomers because those are regions of the galaxy where stars are most likely to form. The images that form the final map were captured by observing small wavelengths of radiation that fall in between infrared light and radio waves.
In the images and in the video of the images below, you can see the coldest regions as bright red blotches. Those blotches were the areas recorded by APEX. But the Chilean telescope also had help from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Astronomy Centre’s Planck satellite, which captured the blue and lighter red areas, respectively.
Scientists hope that by having a detailed map of where stars are most likely to form, they’ll be able to better understand their formation process, which could help them pinpoint more areas of the galaxy worth looking into.