atacama pathfinder experiment

An APEX view of star formation in the Orion Nebula
This dramatic new image of cosmic clouds in the constellation of Orion reveals what seems to be a fiery ribbon in the sky. The orange glow represents faint light coming from grains of cold interstellar dust, at wavelengths too long for human eyes to see. It was observed by the ESO-operated Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) in Chile.

In this image, the submillimetre-wavelength glow of the dust clouds is overlaid on a view of the region in the more familiar visible light, from the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The large bright cloud in the upper right of the image is the well-known Orion Nebula, also called Messier 42.

Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2

The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment

This photograph shows the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX), on the 5000-metre altitude plateau of Chajnantor in the Chilean Andes. The plane of our galaxy — the Milky Way — can be seen in the sky looking like a band of faint, glowing clouds. To the left of APEX is the central region of the Milky Way, where a supermassive black hole lurks at the core of our galaxy.

Image credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi/TWAN


New map of the Milky Way is complete; reveals our galaxy’s future stars

“Earth has a few narrow “windows,” however, where the atmospheric gases allow light of particular wavelength ranges to penetrate. Rather than needing to go to space to map the Universe, we can build ground based telescopes and arrays capable of gathering far more light than a space-based observatory.”

Each time you look at a photograph of the Universe, you aren’t just seeing it as it was at a particular moment in time, but also in a particular wavelength (or set of wavelengths) of light! Different wavelengths can reveal different phenomena and components of the Universe, from dust and gas to starlight, plasma, black holes and beyond. Recently, the ATLASGAL collaboration, using the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX) telescope, a 12-meter sub-millimetre dish atop a 5,100 meter Chilean Plateau, completed their map of the southern Milky Way. Spanning more than 400 square degrees, it is the most accurate map of our galaxy in this wavelength of all time, even defeating maps created in space.

Go view the whole remarkable thing in pictures, videos and no more than 200 words on today’s Mostly Mute Monday.