Planck All-Sky Images Show Cold Gas and Strange Haze
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.
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 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 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.
Several explanations have been proposed for this unusual behaviour.
“Theories include higher numbers of supernovae, galactic winds and even the annihilation of dark-matter particles,” said Greg Dobler, a Planck collaborator from the University of California in Santa Barbara, Calif. Dark matter makes up about a quarter of our universe, but scientists don’t know exactly what it is.