Dark Murky Clouds in the Bright Milky Way

Wise_wise2011-027_500

WISE_WISE2011-027 August 19th, 2011

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Typically if an astronomer wants to look into or through a thick dark cloud in space, they will choose to look in infrared light. However, in this infrared image from NASAs Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, we can see that some clouds are so cool and thick that even infrared cant penetrate them. The black areas in this imagecalled infrared dark clouds (IRDCs)are exceptionally cold, dense cloud cores seen in silhouette against the bright diffuse infrared glow of the plane of the Milky Way. Theyre great examples of why it is so useful for astronomers to be able to observe in many different wavelengths of light.

If you were to look at this same region of the sky through a backyard telescope you would see a sea of stars packed together, similar to the thousands of blue stars seen here. You might also notice small patches of darkness that appear to block out the stars behind them. But what you wouldnt see are these beautiful clouds colored green, yellow and red, as in this image from WISEthose are only seen in infrared. In fact, the places where you see dark patches with your eyes are often the places where WISE sees bright clouds with its infrared eyes. Whats dark to our eyes is often bright to WISE because those clouds are dense enough to block visible light,but not dense enough to block the longer wavelengths of infrared lightand too cool to shine in visible light but still warm enough to glow brightly in infrared light.

However, that same basic darkening effect is happening even in this infrared image. The dark areas here are places where the gas is extremely compact and chilly, so much so that it is opaque even in the infrared wavelengths that WISE sees. To see them glow we must look in even longer wavelengths.

IRDCs are so dense that if you were located in the middle of one of them, you wouldnt be able to see anything no stars, no galaxies, only darkness. The density in these clouds is high enough to lead to the formation of new stars and planets.

This image was made from observations by all four infrared detectors aboard WISE. Blue and cyan (blue-green) represent infrared light at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, which is primarily light from stars. Green and red represent light at 12 and 22 microns, which is primarily light from warm dust.

Image Source: /image/WISE/WISE2011-027

Curator: Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, Berkeley, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Pulic Domain

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Subject - Unspecified
Mission Graphics
Wise_wise2011-027_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 18h 8m 0.1s
DEC = -19° 41’ 16.0”
Orientation
North is 90.0° CCW
Field of View
1.6 x 1.0 degrees
Constellation
Sagittarius

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Arrow_left_blue WISE Infrared (Near-IR) 3.4 µm
Arrow_left_cyan WISE Infrared (Near-IR) 4.6 µm
Arrow_left_green WISE Infrared (Mid-IR) 12.0 µm
Arrow_left_red WISE Infrared (Mid-IR) 22.0 µm
Spectrum_ir1
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_cyan
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_red
Wise_wise2011-027_1280
×
ID
WISE2011-027
Subject Category
*.*  
Subject Name
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
/image/WISE/WISE2011-027
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
WISE, WISE, WISE, WISE
Instrument
Color Assignment
Blue, Cyan, Green, Red
Band
Infrared, Infrared, Infrared, Infrared
Bandpass
Near-IR, Near-IR, Mid-IR, Mid-IR
Central Wavelength
3400, 4600, 12000, 22000
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
Reference Value
272.000535, -19.687778
Reference Dimension
4095, 2700
Reference Pixel
2048, 2048
Scale
-3.81944439141100e-04, 3.81944439141100e-04
Rotation
90
Coordinate System Projection:
SIN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
URL
http://wise.astro.ucla.edu
Name
Email
outreach@ssl.berkeley.edu
Telephone
Address
7 Gauss Way
City
Berkeley
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
94720
Country
USA
Rights
Pulic Domain
Publisher
Publisher ID
WISE
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/WISE/WISE2011-027
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2011-08-05
Metadata Version
1.2
×

Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

 

×

There is no distance meta data in this image.