Planck sees tapestry of cold dust (w/ Video)

Planck sees tapestry of cold dust
The image spans about 50° of the sky. It is a three-color combination constructed from Planck's two highest frequency channels (557 and 857 GHz, corresponding to wavelengths of 540 and 350 micrometers), and an image at the shorter wavelength of 100 micrometers made by the IRAS satellite. This combination visualises dust temperature very effectively: red corresponds to temperatures as cold as 10° above absolute zero, and white to those of a few tens of degrees. Overall, the image shows local dust structures within 500 light-years of the sun. Credit: ESA and the HFI Consortium, IRAS

( -- Giant filaments of cold dust stretching through our Galaxy are revealed in a new image from ESA's Planck satellite. Analysing these structures could help to determine the forces that shape our Galaxy and trigger star formation.

Planck is principally designed to study the biggest mysteries of cosmology. How did the Universe form? How did the galaxies form? This new image extends the range of its investigations into the cold dust structures of our own Galaxy.

The image shows the filamentary structure of dust in the solar neighbourhood - within about 500 light-years of the Sun. The local filaments are connected to the Milky Way, which is the pink horizontal feature near the bottom of the image. Here, the emission is coming from much further away, across the disc of our Galaxy.

Planck will scan the entire sky to build the most accurate map ever of the Cosmic Microwave Background, the relic radiation from the Big Bang. The spacecraft will spin at 1 rotation per minute around an axis offset by about 85° so that the observed sky region will trace a large circle on the sky. As the spin axis follows the Sun the circle observed by the instruments sweeps through the sky at a rate of 1° per day. Planck will take about 6 months to complete a full scan of the sky, allowing the creation of two complete sky maps during the nominal mission lifetime (about 15 months). Credit: ESA (animation by C. Carreau)

The image has been colour coded to discern different temperatures of dust. White-pink tones show dust of a few tens of degrees above absolute zero, whereas the deeper colours are dust at around -261°C, only about 12 degrees above . The warmer dust is concentrated into the plane of the Galaxy whereas the dust suspended above and below is cooler.

"What makes these structures have these particular shapes is not well understood," says Jan Tauber, ESA Project Scientist for Planck. The denser parts are called while the more diffuse parts are 'cirrus'. They consist of both dust and gas, although the gas does not show up directly in this image.

There are many forces at work in the Galaxy to help shape the molecular clouds and cirrus into these filamentary patterns. For example, on large scales the Galaxy rotates, creating spiral patterns of stars, dust, and gas. Gravity exerts an important influence, pulling on the dust and gas. Radiation and particle jets from stars push the dust and gas around, and magnetic fields also play a role, although to what extent is presently unclear.

Bright spots in the image are dense clumps of matter where star formation may take place. As the clumps shrink, they become denser and better at shielding their interiors from light and other radiation. This allows them to cool more easily and collapse faster.

ESA's Herschel space telescope can be used to study such regions in detail, but only Planck can find them all over the sky. Launched together in May 2009, Planck and Herschel are both studying the coolest components of the Universe. Planck looks at large structures, while Herschel can make detailed observations of smaller structures, such as nearby star-forming regions.

Planck sees tapestry of cold dust (w/ Video)
Filamentary structures are apparent on large scales (as shown in the Planck image, right) and small scales (as seen in the Herschel image of a region in the Aquila constellation, left) in the Milky Way. The Planck image, covering a portion of the sky about 55°, was obtained by the High Frequency Instrument at a frequency of 857 GHz (corresponding to a wavelength of 350 micrometres). The dark horizontal band is the plane of our Galaxy, seen in cross-section from our vantage point. The colours represent the intensity of heat radiation by dust. The Planck image was obtained during the First Planck All-Sky Survey, which began in mid-August 2009 and is being completed now. By mid-March 2010, 98% of the sky had been observed by Planck, and 100% sky coverage is expected by late May 2010. Credits: ESA/HFI Consortium. Credits for inset: ESA/SPIRE & PACS consortia/P. André (CEA Saclay) for Gould’s Belt Key Programme Consortia

One puzzle to be solved is why there is similar filamentary structure on both the large and the small scale. "That's a big question," says Tauber.

The new image is a combination of data taken with Planck's High Frequency Instrument (HFI), at wavelengths of 540 micrometres and 350 micrometres, and a 100-micrometre image taken in 1983 with the IRAS satellite.

The HFI data were recorded as part of Planck's first all-sky survey at microwave wavelengths. As the spacecraft rotates, its instruments sweep across the sky. During every rotation, they cross the Milky Way twice. Thus, in the course of Planck's mission to precisely map the afterglow of the big bang, it is also producing exquisite maps of the Galaxy.

Explore further

Akari's observations of galaxy M101

Citation: Planck sees tapestry of cold dust (w/ Video) (2010, March 17) retrieved 24 August 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 17, 2010
"Analysing these structures could help to determine the forces that shape our Galaxy and trigger star formation."

Wait a minute, where's all the mystery? I thought this was all sorted out? Matter, by its very existence, exhibits attraction upon itself and contracts. Case closed, right?

Mar 17, 2010
"What makes these structures have these particular shapes is not well understood,"

"One puzzle to be solved is why there is similar filamentary structure on both the large and the small scale. "That's a big question," says Tauber. "

Here's a big answer...PLASMA !

Self Similarity of Plasma Networking in a Broad Range of Length Scales:
"A high degree of self-similarity of plasma structuring is found in a very broad range of length scales, from individual filaments in laboratory discharges to the structures in the universe, which resemble electric currents networking in laboratory plasmas."

There is evidence for auto-ionization in cold plasma.

Cryogenic Electron Emission:

Cold plasma behaves like hot plasma.

Ultra Cold Gas Mimics Ultra Hot Plasma:

Mar 17, 2010
You would think that these researchers would be aware of findings related to their own line of inquiry, but, at least in this case- maybe not, unless they are convinced that there is some other fundamental process at work. Even so, seems that if you have a question, then all possible models that fit the observed phenomena should at least be considered...
Would call for a major overhaul of the current model. But it seems to me that the observations are pointing in that direction.

Mar 17, 2010
"You would think that these researchers would be aware of findings related to their own line of inquiry..."

Try within their own institutions.

"The Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) in Garching has developed important software components for Planck and is getting ready to participate in the analysis and scientific interpretation of the mission data."

Check out the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. Notice the similarities in the image of the laboratory plasma crystal and the image from the Planck satellite in this article.

I think we're in the midst of a paradigm shift.

Mar 17, 2010
It would certainly help explain much regarding structural, mechanical, and attractive/repulsive forces at work.
I'll keep an eye on further developments, to be sure.

Mar 18, 2010
How much of our galaxy's 'missing mass' does this lot represent ??

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more