Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2009 October 16
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Herschel Views the Milky Way
Credit: ESA, SPIRE & PACS Consortia

Explanation: With a 3.5 meter diameter mirror, larger than the Hubble Space Telescope, Herschel is ESA's new infrared observatory. The space-based telescope is named for German-born British astronomer Frederick William Herschel who discovered infrared light over 200 years ago. In initial tests, Herschel's cameras have combined to deliver this spectacular view along the plane of the Milky Way in the constellation of the Southern Cross. Spanning some 2 degrees the premier, false-color, far-infrared view captures our galaxy's cold dust clouds in extreme detail, showing a remarkable, connected maze of filaments and star-forming regions. These and planned future Herschel observations are intended to unravel mysteries of star formation by surveying broad areas of the galactic plane.

Tomorrow's picture: hot gas

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