Planck Captures Detailed Images of Milky Way's Magnetic Field for the First Time
These beautiful images show some of the first images of our galaxy's magnetic field, and the first to be taken in this much detail. ESA's Planck spacecraft created the images over 1,500 days of mapping the direction of light in the Milky Way. The result looks something like a Van Gogh painting:
The colors have been altered to reflect temperature, where dark red is the hottest and dark blue the coldest, while the relief lines represent the shape of the magnetic fields. The fields cannot be directly detected, but rather are indirectly studied based on their effect on light particles emitted from cosmic dust.
"There are still huge questions about what our galaxy's magnetic field is," said Joanna Dunkley, a physics professor at Oxford University. "The problem is that we are sitting in our galaxy, and have to try and construct a three-dimensional view of the field, but we can only look from here on Earth. Much of it is messy and tangled, and the information in the orientation of the light coming from the dust grains, or the electrons, gets very hard to interpret."