Astronomers have just released images returned from an instrument designed to identify dark energy. It shows the Milky Way in all its glory. More than 3.3 billion celestial bodies can be seen on it. This is probably the largest catalog of its kind ever!
Our Milky Way galaxy hides hundreds of billions of objects. Stars, clouds of gas and dust, star forming regions. So many that compiling a complete catalog seems nearly impossible. However, the Dark Energy Camera Plane Survey (DECaPS2) mission is starting to do just that. Two years of work and 10 terabytes of data collected by the Victor M. Blanco telescope in Chile using the DECam (Dark Energy Camera), a high-resolution instrument used to search for dark energy. The result is an overview of about 3.32 billion celestial bodies in the southern sky.
The first dataset, DECaPS, was published in 2017. However, when these are added, about 6.5 percent of the sky is covered. They are the wavelengths of visible and near infrared light.
Unlock the mysteries of the Milky Way
In particular, near infrared data allows it to penetrate dust and plunge into the galactic plane. This region contains most of the objects that make up the Milky Way, but it is difficult to see a star because its light is obscured by clouds and can interfere with the light of another star.
To overcome this difficulty, the researchers developed a new image processing technique. This allows them to predict the background behind each star, mitigating the effects of nebulae and crowded starfields. “Imagine a group photo of 3 billion people, where everyone is recognizable,” said Debra Fisher, director of astrophysics at the National Science Foundation (NSF, USA). NOIRLabto show us the artwork that was done here.
The result is a map of the three-dimensional structure of stars and dust in our Milky Way galaxy in unprecedented detail. And analysis has worked for astronomers for many decades…but if you just want to reward yourself with a trip through the Milky Way, the data in question is here Accessible to everyone.
Editor: Futura, by Natalie Meyer.
Cover photo: © DECaPS2, DOE, FNAL, DECam, CTIO, NOIRLab, NSF, AURA; Image editing: M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab) –Astronomers on the Dark Energy Camera Plane Survey (DECaPS2) mission have released a stunning image of the Milky Way’s jet. This dataset contains an impressive number of 3.32 billion astronomical objects.
2 Figure: © DECaPS2, DOE, FNAL, DECam, CTIO, NOIRLab, NSF, AURA; Image processing: M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)
3 Figure: © DECaPS2, DOE, FNAL, DECam, CTIO, NOIRLab, NSF, AURA, M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)
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