Featured Image: Charting Our Dusty Galaxy


This complex map (click for a closer look) shows the locations of dust in our galaxy, as measured out to a distance of 500 pc (roughly 1,630 light-years). Dust reveals important information about galactic structure and star formation — but it can also present a hindrance, dimming and reddening faraway sources. To correctly interpret distant observations, we need an accurate picture of how dust is distributed within our galaxy. A team of scientists led by Gregory Green (Stanford University; Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Germany) have now built a detailed three-dimensional map of dust reddening in our galaxy out to a distance of a few kiloparsecs (~10,000 light-years). The authors accomplished this by using Gaia parallaxes and stellar photometry from Pan-STARRS 1 and 2MASS to infer the distances, reddenings, and types of 799 million stars. Their 3D map and data are freely accessible for use; for more information, see the article linked below.


Check out the authors’ video, which reveals the 3D-ness of the dust distribution as the virtual camera orbits on a 25-pc loop around the Sun.


“A 3D Dust Map Based on Gaia, Pan-STARRS 1, and 2MASS,” Gregory M. Green et al 2019 ApJ 887 93. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/ab5362