Largest digital survey of Milky Way released by astronomers

December 11th, 2007 - 3:43 pm ICT by admin  

London, Dec 11 (ANI): Astronomers have released the largest optical digital survey of the Milky Way galaxy, which has stunning red images of nebulae and stars.

Conducted by a collaborative team of over 50 astronomers from the IPHAS ( INT Photometric H-Alpha Survey) consortium, the survey used the Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma to look at the light emitted by hydrogen ions.

By including some 200 million unique objects in the newly released catalogue, the IPHAS survey will help to foster studies that can be at once both comprehensive and subtle, of the stellar demographics of the Milky Way and of its three-dimensional structure.

“Using the distinctive Hydrogen marker we are able to look at some of the least understood stars in the Galaxy - those at the early and very late stages of their life cycles. These represent less than one in a thousand stars, so the IPHAS data will greatly improve our picture of stellar evolution,” said Professor Janet Drew of the University of Hertfordshire.

According to the Science and Technology Facilities Council in the UK, this initial data release is of observations of the Northern Plane of the Milky Way (the star filled section) that covers 1600 sq degrees, in two broadband colours, and a narrow band filter sensitive to the emission of Hydrogen in the red part of the spectrum (H-alpha emission).

The image resolution is high enough to permit the detection of individual stars exhibiting H-alpha emission, in addition to the diffuse gas that makes up the often-beautiful glowing nebulae that lower spatial resolution surveys have made known to us before.

The IPHAS database is already revealing much information.

For example,IPHAS team members from the University of Southampton, have led an effort to extract and catalogue the brighter H-alpha emission line stars revealed so far by the survey.

Also, this list of nearly 5000 objects is already the longest single list of its kind.

Another important finding of this survey is that the distribution of these special objects, across the northern sky,traces ‘hot spots’ of recently formed stars in our Galaxy much more convincingly than has been possible hitherto.

The IPHAS survey will eventually be extended to cover the entire galactic plane of our galaxy, with a coverage approaching 4000 square degrees. (ANI)

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