Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Mapping Cold Dust in the Universe


Spectacular new images of the Milky Way have been released to mark the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL). The APEX telescope in Chile, a collaboration between MPIfR (Bonn, Germany), the Swedish Onsala Space Observatory, and the European Southern Observatory, has mapped the full area of the Galactic Plane visible from the southern hemisphere for the first time at submillimetre wavelengths (between infrared light and radio waves) and in finer detail than recent space-based surveys. The pioneering 12-metre APEX telescope allows astronomers to study the cold Universe: gas and dust that are only a few tens of degrees above absolute zero.

APEX, the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment telescope, is located at 5100 metres altitude on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile’s Atacama region. The APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL) 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 complete survey includes most of the regions of star formation in the Milky Way.

Image of the Milky Way in the direction of Scorpius. Red: APEX data at a wavelength of 0.87 millimetres; Orange: Planck satellite (ESA); Blue: NASA Spitzer Space Telescope (GLIMPSE survey).

ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium

Three areas of the Galactic plane as seen by the APEX LABOCA camera merged with large-scale images from ESA’s Planck satellite.

ATLASGAL Consortium/Csengeri et al. 2016, A&A 585, A104.

The ATLASGAL maps cover an area of sky 140 degrees long and 3 degrees wide. This survey is the single most successful APEX large programme with more than 69 associated science papers already published, and its legacy will expand much further with all the reduced data products now available for the full astronomical community.

At the heart of APEX are its sensitive instruments. One of these, LABOCA (the LArge BOlometer Camera), the largest such detector in the southern hemisphere, was used for the ATLASGAL survey. LABOCA, built at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany, measures incoming radiation by registering the tiny rise in temperature it causes and can detect emission from the cold dark dust bands obscuring the stellar light.

“If we combine the high spatial resolution ATLASGAL data with observations from ESA’s Planck satellite, the resulting data reach space quality with a 20 times higher resolution”, says Axel Weiß from MPIfR who was responsible for the merging of the data. This allows astronomers to detect emission spread over a larger area of sky and to estimate 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, we can now obtain a link to the large scale structures of giant molecular clouds”, remarks Timea Csengeri, also from MPIfR, first author of the paper about the distribution of cold dust in the Galactic plane on the base of the combined ATLASGAL and Planck data.

The APEX telescope recently celebrated ten years of successful research on the cold Universe. It plays an important role not only as pathfinder, but also as a complementary instrument for ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, also on the Chajnantor Plateau. APEX is based on a prototype antenna constructed for the ALMA project, and it has found many targets that ALMA can study in great detail.

“ATLASGAL has allowed us to have a new and transformational look at the dense interstellar medium of our own Milky Way”, says Leonardo Testi from ESO, who is a member of the ATLASGAL team and the European Project Scientist for the ALMA project. “The new release of the full survey opens up the possibility to mine this marvelous dataset for new discoveries. Many teams of scientists are already using the ATLASGAL data to plan for detailed ALMA follow-up.”

“Modern astronomy always uses a multi-wavelength approach. ATLASGAL adds a view at the cold Universe, revealing the cradles of stars”, concludes Karl Menten from MPIfR, the APEX principal investigator.

APEX, the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment, is a collaboration between the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), Onsala Space Observatory (OSO), and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to construct and operate a modified prototype antenna of ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre Array) as a single dish on the Chajnantor plateau at an altitude of 5,100 metres above sea level (Atacama Desert, Chile). The telescope was manufactured by VERTEX Antennentechnik in Duisburg, Germany. The operation of the telescope is entrusted to ESO.

ATLASGAL, the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy, is a collaboration between the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), ESO, and the University of Chile.

ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, is a partnership of the ESO, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI).

Original Paper:

The ATLASGAL survey: distribution of cold dust in the Galactic plane. Combination with Planck data. T. Csengeri, A. Weiss, F. Wyrowski, K. M. Menten J. S. Urquhart, S. Leurini, F. Schuller, H. Beuther, S. Bontemps, L. Bronfman, Th. Henning, and N. Schneider. Astronomy & Astrophysics 585, A104 (2016). DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201526639

Local Contact:

Dr. Friedrich Wyrowski,
APEX Project Scientist
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn.
Fon: +49 228 525-381

Dr. Timea Csengeri,
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn.
Fon: +49 228 525-392

Dr. Norbert Junkes,
Press and Public Outreach
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn.
Fon: +49 228 525-399

Weitere Informationen:

Norbert Junkes | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>