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Image From The Planck Telescope

July 6, 2010

This interesting photo is the first full-sky image from the European Space Agency’s Planck telescope. It was launched in May 2009 and is now positioned more than one million km from Earth on its non-sunny “night” side. The telescope uses nine frequency bands to observe the sky.

Dominating the foreground of the photo are large segments of the Milky Way Galaxy. The bright horizontal line running the full length of the image is the galaxy’s main disc. This is the plane in which the Sun and the Earth also reside and where most stars in the Milky Way form today.

Because this picture records only light at long wavelengths, what we actually see are not stars at all. Rather, what we see is the stuff that goes into making stars – lots of dust and gas. Of particular note are the huge streamers of cold dust that reach thousands of light-years above and below the galactic plane. Scientists can detect temperature variations in this ancient heat energy that gives them insight into the early structure of the Universe and the blueprint for everything that came later.

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