Planck highlights the complexity of star formation

New images from ESA’s Planck space observatory reveal the forces driving star formation and give astronomers a way to understand the complex physics that shape the dust and gas in our Galaxy. The Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching represents Germany in the consortium of groups and institutions across Europe operating the Planck mission and works mainly on two areas, the data-simulation pipeline and the software infrastructure for data analysis.

Fig.: Planck image of a star forming region in the Orion Nebula
Credits: ESA/LFI & HFI Consortia

Star formation takes place hidden behind thick veils of dust. Where optical telescopes see only black space, Planck’s microwave eyes reveal myriad glowing structures of dust and gas. Now, Planck has used this ability to probe two relatively nearby star-forming regions in our Galaxy, in the Orion nebula and the Perseus region.

Planck’s primary mission is to observe the entire sky at microwave wavelengths in order to map the variations in the ancient radiation given out by the Big Bang. Thus, it cannot help but observe the Milky Way as it rotates and sweeps its electronic detectors across the night sky.

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