A New Map Is Out That Could Change The Way We Look At The Night Sky Forever
Space is a dusty place. Really dusty. It’s so dusty than we’ve now got a space telescope—the James Webb Space Telescope, no less—in space that’s capable of peering through it.
Warm dust glows in the mid-infrared wavelengths of light detectable by Webb, so it’s rater ironic that it has already been permanently damaged—by dust.
Rather mysteriously, there’s too much dust in space.
Galaxies both close and incredibly distant contain too much dust, which is inconvenient because it’s from dust that stars and planets form. If we don’t understand dust then we don’t understand anything.
In an effort to help solve this “dust budget crisis” astronomers have created an animation to model dust in our Milky Way galaxy.
Presented last week at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2022) at the University of Warwick, the new map is based on new data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission and the 2MASS All Sky Survey.
“Dust clouds are related to the formation and death of stars, so their distribution tells a story of how structures formed in the galaxy and how the galaxy evolves,” said Nick Cox, coordinator of the Innovative Scientific Data Exploration and Exploitation Applications for Space Sciences (EXPLORE) project, which is developing the tools.
The map covers about 13,000 light-years, from our local neighborhood to the galactic center, which is about 10% of the overall distance across the Milky Way.
“The maps are also important for cosmologists in revealing regions where there is no dust and we can have a clear, unobstructed view out of the Milky Way to study the Universe beyond, such as to make Deep Field observations with Hubble or the new James Webb Space Telescope” said Cox.
The map reveals swirls of dust nearby, but farther out it appears to gather along the galactic plane. The map also reveals two windows through the dust both above and below the galactic plane.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.