They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this picture is worth tens of billions of stars.

And that’s what we are seeing here; this is the plane of our galaxy, seen through the eyes of a powerful telescope called the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment telescope (APEX), located high on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile’s Atacama region and managed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

The mosaic of images represents the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL) project that imaged the entirety of the Milky Way’s plane seen edge-on from APEX’s Southern Hemisphere location. It is the first galactic survey in sub-millimeter wavelengths — a region of the electromagnetic spectrum between infrared and radio waves — and because of the telescope’s awesome 12-meter wide aperture, astronomers can reveal far more detail in these observations than even space-based telescopes.

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