A new telescope, tuned to view far infrared wavelengths of light, created the highest resolution images ever of our galactic plane. And it reveals a galaxy more in turmoil than scientists expected. Doesn't it look like a weird energy creature?

The Herschel Space Observatory includes two cameras, studying different wavelengths of light — the British SPIRE camera (responsible for the above image) studies light measuring 250-500 microns. And the German PACS camera measures light of 70-170 microns. (Next image). They tested both cameras on a stretch of sky near the Southern Cross, and were surprised by what they found. According to Herschel:

The resulting images reveal an extremely rich reservoir of cold material in the Galactic Plane that is seen to be in a previously unsuspected state of turmoil. Interstellar material appears to be condensing in a continuous and interconnected maze of filaments and strings of newly-forming stars in all stages of development. The observations yield additional information about this cold material - such as how much there is, its mass, temperature and composition, and whether or not some of it is collapsing to form new stars.


PACS image

Composite SPIRE/PACS image