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Image credit: ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/ESA/Planck

APEX telescope maps Milky Way's star-forming regions

With a bit of help from the Spitzer telescope and Planck satellite.

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ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/ESA/Planck

The APEX telescope in Chile has completed its biggest project, resulting in the most complete view of the cold galaxy we've ever seen. It spent almost a decade peering into the skies for the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy or ATLASGAL in submillimeter wavelengths, which fall in between infrared light and radio waves. Observing the universe in those wavelengths allowed the telescope to see all the cold gas and dust in the galactic plane that's visible from the southern hemisphere. In the image above and the video below the fold, you can see those cold clouds as bright red blotches that wouldn't look out of place in an abstract painting.

APEX kept a close eye on cold clouds with temperatures just above absolute zero, because they typically give birth to new stars. As Timea Csengeri from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy said, "ATLASGAL provides exciting insights into where the next generation of high-mass stars and clusters form."

While the project is tied more closely to the APEX telescope, the images the European Southern Observatory released wouldn't be complete with other observatories' contributions. The wispy red curtains behind the brighter blotches were captured by the European Space Agency's Planck satellite. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, on the other hand, contributed the blue background, which was taken in shorter infrared wavelengths. The final product gives us a comprehensive look of the regions where we'll most likely find young stars fresh out of the galactic womb.

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