Planck Reveals Giant Dust Structures in our Local Neighborhood

This new image from Planck spans about 50° of the sky. Credits: ESA/HFI Consortium/IRAS

Dust has never looked so beautiful! This new image from the Planck spacecraft shows giant filaments of cold dust stretching through our galaxy. The image spans about 50 degrees of the sky, showing our local neighborhood within approximately 500 light-years of the Sun. “What makes these structures have these particular shapes is not well understood,” says Jan Tauber, ESA Project Scientist for Planck. Analyzing these structures could help to determine the forces that shape our galaxy and trigger star formation.

What do these filamentary structures of dust represent? The denser parts are called molecular clouds while the more diffuse parts are ‘cirrus,’ and they do look like the wispy cirrus clouds we have on Earth. The local filaments are connected to the Milky Way, which is the pink horizontal feature near the bottom of the image. Here, the emission is coming from much further away, across the disc of our Galaxy.

The red box shows the region of sky seen in the new Planck image; it covers a portion of the sky about 55°. The background image is a globe representing half the sky as imaged by the IRAS satellite at 100 micrometres. Credits: ESA/IRAS

The image has been color coded to discern different temperatures of dust. White-pink tones show dust of a few tens of degrees above absolute zero, whereas the deeper colors are dust at around –261°C, only about 12 degrees above absolute zero. The warmer dust is concentrated into the plane of the Galaxy whereas the dust suspended above and below is cooler.

Planck will help us study the biggest mysteries of cosmology, such as how the Universe and galaxies formed. This new image extends the range of its investigations into the cold dust structures of our own Galaxy.

Source: ESA

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at and and Instagram at and

Recent Posts

Hot Stars Blast Away at gas Giants Until Only Their Rocky Cores Remain

We don't see many Neptune-sized worlds closely orbiting their star. That may be because the…

12 hours ago

JWST’s Science, Surgeon Robot for ISS, Booster 7 Test Fire

James Webb delivers scientific results, SLS and Starship go closer to their maiden flights, remote…

14 hours ago

MIT Researchers Propose Space Bubbles to Stop Climate Change

Climate change is a real problem. Human caused outputs of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide…

1 day ago

In Wildly Different Environments, Stars End Up Roughly the Same

When you look at a region of the sky where stars are born, you see…

1 day ago

Primordial Black Holes Could Have Triggered the Formation of Supermassive Black Holes

Computer simulations show the role primordial black holes may have played in the early universe,…

1 day ago

Why Betelgeuse Dimmed

Using data from Hubble and other observatories, a team of scientists have determine the cause…

2 days ago