The mysterious Galactic Haze by Planck mission

New images from the Planck mission show previously undiscovered islands of star formation and a mysterious haze of microwave emissions in our Milky Way galaxy. The views give scientists new treasures to mine and take them closer to understanding the secrets of our galaxy.  Image credit: ESA/Planck Collaboration

This all-sky image (above) shows the distribution of carbon monoxide (CO), a molecule used by astronomers to trace molecular clouds across the sky, as seen by Planck.

Planck is a European Space Agency mission with significant NASA participation.

“The images reveal two exciting aspects of the galaxy in which we live,” said Planck scientist Krzysztof M. Gorski from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and Warsaw University Observatory in Poland. “They show a haze around the center of the galaxy, and cold gas where we never saw it before.”

The mysterious Galactic Haze by Planck mission

This all-sky image shows the distribution of the galactic haze seen by ESA’s Planck mission at microwave frequencies superimposed over the high-energy sky.   Image credit: ESA/Planck Collaboration (microwave); NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT/D. Finkbeiner et al. (gamma rays)

The new images show the entire sky, dominated by the murky band of our Milky Way galaxy. One of them shows the unexplained haze of microwave light previously hinted at in measurements by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP).

The mysterious Galactic Haze by Planck mission

This all-sky image shows the spatial distribution over the whole sky of the galactic haze at 30 and 44 GHz, extracted from the Planck observations. Image credit: ESA/Planck Collaboration

“The haze comes from the region surrounding the center of our galaxy and looks like a form of light energy produced when electrons accelerate through magnetic fields,” said Davide Pietrobon, another JPL Planck scientist.

“We’re puzzled though, because this haze is brighter at shorter wavelengths than similar light emitted elsewhere in the galaxy,” added Gorski.

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