The APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL) project designed to map the Milky Way has been completed. Using the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile, the ATLASGAL survey provides a detailed view of the distribution of cold dense gas along the plane of the Milky Way galaxy.
The resulting new ATLASGAL maps are now one of the most detailed, high quality maps of the galaxy in existence. They cover an area of sky 140 degrees long and 3 degrees wide.
The successful completion of the ATLASGAL survey expounds on the remarkable legacy of APEX, which just recently celebrated ten years of successful research on the cold Universe.
On one hand, the ATLASGAL success owes to the myriad of sensitive instruments in the APEX, like the LArge BOlometer CAmera (LABOCA). The LABOCA detects emission from the cold dark dust bands obscuring stellar light by measuring incoming radiation.
On the other hand, independent observations by the Planck satellite managed by the European Space Agency (ESA) when combined with APEX data allowed astronomers to pinpoint emission occupying a larger area of the sky and to estimate how much dense gas exists in the inner Galaxy. This proved the extensive value of the ATLASGAL data.
Aside these, the ATLASGAL data were also used to ascertain the current locations of massive and cold clouds. These clouds are important to scientists because they are the birthplace of the next generation of high-mass stars and clusters.
Scientists are already taking advantage of the expansive ATLASGAL data to plan for detailed Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array follow-up that should open up the possibilities of new discoveries about the terrain and nature of our home galaxy.
ALMA and APEX are located on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Atacama region in Chile.