Polarized Dust Lights Up Milky Way

Planck_planck15-002f_1024

planck_planck15-002f February 5th, 2015

Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Our Milky Way galaxy is ablaze with dust in this new all-sky map from Planck, a European Space Agency mission with important NASA contributions. The towers of fiery colors are actually dust in the galaxy and beyond that has been polarized. The data show light of 353 gigahertz or 0.85-millimeter wavelengths, which is longer than what we see with our eyes.

When light reflects off surfaces or particles it can become polarized, which means that its electric fields -- normally oriented in all directions -- line up together in the same direction. Polarized sunglasses reduce glare by blocking polarized light.

Planck has special detectors than can pick up polarized light. Most of it comes from dust within our galaxy, but a very tiny fraction travels to us from the dawn of time, from billions of light-years away. That ancient polarized light holds clues about the birth of our universe, and its explosive period of growth called inflation.

Researchers are sifting through data from Planck and other telescopes in an effort to isolate this faint polarized signal. In particular, they are searching for a "curly" pattern of polarized light called B-modes thought to have originated in the very first moments after our universe was born. One of their biggest challenges is separating these ancient B-modes from those that originated in our Milky Way galaxy. This map helps illustrate the daunting task at hand: our galaxy is teeming with polarized light, masking the feeble signal from billions of years ago.

Provider: Planck

Image Source: http://planck.ipac.caltech.edu/image/planck15-002f

Curator: NASA Planck Science Center, Pasadena, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Public Domain

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Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
Milky Way
Subject - Milky Way
Galaxy
Nebula > Type > Interstellar Medium
Planck_planck15-002f_1280
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ID
planck15-002f
Subject Category
B.5   B.4.1.1  
Subject Name
Milky Way
Credits
ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech
Release Date
2015-02-05
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
http://planck.ipac.caltech.edu/image/planck15-002f
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
Reference Dimension
12706, 6353
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
NASA Planck Science Center
URL
http://planck.ipac.caltech.edu
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
1200 E. California Blvd.
City
Pasadena
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
91125
Country
USA
Rights
Public Domain
Publisher
Publisher ID
planck
Resource ID
Metadata Date
2018-06-20T23:54:25Z
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

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