WISE data release

Submitted by Kevin Jardine on 16 April, 2011 - 13:25

The first block of WISE infrared data was released a couple of days ago and there is an explanation of how to access the images here. Unfortunately all that is provided is an (when I tried it) unbearably slow postage stamp image server.

There is nothing like the full pannable and zoomable maps available for other infrared missions such as IRAS or Spitzer GLIMPSE/MIPSGAL. This is a real shame as the WISE all sky data is crying out for a Google Sky like interface.

The first block of data is mostly confined to the inner galaxy with a few key bits of the Gould Belt (Orion/Ophiuchus) and the outer galaxy provided as well. You can see the release map here.

I understand that the lack of a more elaborate interface is partially a funding issue. I hope that some resources become available (Google or Microsoft are you listening?) by the time the full data is released next year.

In the mean time (and if the postage stamp server becomes more responsive) I hope to start doing the Gum/RCW/Sharpless catalog images in infrared.

Nearest stars

Submitted by Kevin Jardine on 28 March, 2011 - 17:10

Visitors to this site sometimes ask me about the nearest stars to our Sun. Even the dimmest star shown on the maps on this site is 1400 times brighter than the Sun and most are quite far away.

I've occasionally thought of creating a near star map for fun, but now I see that the RECONS project have done the job for me with this map showing every known star within 10 parsecs:


All that is needed is an overlay to identify each individual star. Hopefully at some point they will add something like that. (I can't because RECONS has released less than half their star data so far.)

There is a much bigger 25 parsecs map (warning slow to load) here:


Distance to Cygnus X

Submitted by Kevin Jardine on 29 November, 2010 - 09:05

As I mentioned in my article on determining galactic distances, VLBI radio astronomy parallax measurements are finally producing accurate distance estimates for important locations around the Milky Way, replacing the dodgy and unreliable kinematic and photometric estimates used in the past.

Last week, an international team uploaded a paper presented at the 10th European VLBI Network Symposium to the astrophysics archive, giving an estimate for the distance to W75N, an important region within the Cygnus X complex, which is believed to be the closest major complex of star formation regions to our solar system. The estimate is 1320 (+110/-90) parsecs, making it slightly closer than the 1500 parsecs I've been using for the Milky Way map on this site.

The same team intends to publish estimates for other objects within Cygnus X, which should finally determine whether Cygnus X is a real complex of massive star formation regions or simply many different star formation regions scattered at different distances in the line of sight. Recent research suggests that Cygnus X is real, but only parallax measurements will make this certain.

More on four arms vs. two

Submitted by Kevin Jardine on 26 August, 2010 - 09:55

This NASA image of Messier 106 provides a good example of the difficulties involved in determining the number of arms in a spiral galaxy.

Messier 106 has two arms which are invisible at optical wavelengths but very visible at radio and x-ray frequencies.

I gave the Messier 106 example in a blog post last year but the image I linked to today tells the story a bit more clearly.

Thanks to Universe Today for drawing my attention to this image.


Subscribe to Galaxy Map RSS