Space images can often be breathtaking and the night sky has often inspired artists to produce incredible masterpieces. Sometimes even the way astronomers represent data can be both scientifically and artistically stunning.
Case in point is the polarization map released by the Planck Collaboration, which shows unique views of the universe, and reminds me of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
The latest released map, posted on the ESA website last week, is about the Polaris Flare. This is a small molecular cloud 500 light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Minor, towards the celestial north pole (as the name obviously suggests).
The image shows the relatively warm (hundreds of degrees below zero) dust in the cloud, in contrast to the cooler background, and it appears to have formed some sort of elemental fire-sprite in the middle. Polaris Flare is the result of shockwaves, compressing interstellar dust into a cloud. Maybe one day a star would form from it.
Magnetic microwave map of the Polaris Flare. ESA and the Planck Collaboration
The relief lines, which give the post-impressionist feel, represent the magnetic field of the Milky Way. It’s absolutely magnificent that we can measure something as subtle as the magnetic field of ...