Milky Way

Mapping dust in three dimensions

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Science  12 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6449, pp. 136
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6449.136-a

False-color map of dust density in the Milky Way, looking along the Galactic plane. The dashed line encloses the region of best resolution.

IMAGE: R. LALLEMENT ET AL., ASTRON. ASTROPHYS. 625, A135 (2019)

The interstellar medium contains micrometer-sized solid grains, referred to as dust, that absorb and scatter background starlight. Lallement et al. have combined data from the Gaia spacecraft with ground-based photometry to determine the distances to and dust absorption toward millions of stars in the Milky Way. Applying an adaptive inversion method, they use these observations to produce a three-dimensional map of interstellar dust over a large part of our Galaxy. Features visible in their maps include the Galactic plane, parts of the spiral arms, and voids where the dust has been evaporated.

Astron. Astrophys. 625, A135 (2019).

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