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Dazzling new images from the European Space Agency's telescope have revealed the forces driving star formation in our galaxy.
The space observatory has peered deep into the dark areas of gas and dust floating between the stars and found complex physical processes at work.
Using instruments that detect faint microwaves thousands of light years away, Planck has revealed myriad glowing structures and newly born stars that are hidden when viewed in visible light.
ESA scientists probed two relatively nearby star-forming regions in the Milky Way - Orion and Perseus.
The Orion region is a cradle of star formation around 1,500 light years away and is famous for the breathtaking Orion Nebula.
In the Planck image the Orion nebula is the bright spot to the lower centre. The giant red arc of Barnard’s Loop is thought to be the blast wave from a star that blew up inside the region about two million years ago. The bubble it created is now about 300 light-years across.
The spacecraft images of the Orion (left) and Perseus (right) regions superimposed on an optical and infrared background of the Milky Way
According to Esa scientists the region of the sky centred on the constellation of Perseus is a less vigorous star-forming area.
However, the space observatory discovered both regions were very active when viewed at longer wavelengths.
Planck was able to highlight three physical processes taking place in the dust and gas of the interstellar medium and show each one separately.
At the lowest frequencies, Planck mapped emissions from ionized gas heated by newly formed hot stars.
At higher frequencies, Planck mapped the meagre heat given out by extremely cold dust.
This can be used to reveal the coldest cores in the clouds, which are approaching the final stages of collapse, before they are reborn as fully-fledged stars. The stars then disperse into the surrounding clouds.
Scientists have found that the delicate balance between cloud collapse and dispersion regulates the number of stars that the galaxy makes.
Planck will advance the understanding of this interplay, because it provides data on several major mechanisms that are taking place at the same time.
The gaseous and dusty fabric of our galaxy is illuminated in new images captured by Europe's Planck telescope.
The pictures reveal features of the Milky Way that are unseen by most other space observatories, say scientists.
Remarkably, these images are just byproducts for Planck, which must filter out much of the light it detects to get at its primary target.
That target is a relic radiation emitted in the first few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang.
This so-called Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) fills the entire sky and retains fundamental information about the age, contents and structure of the cosmos.
On one level, therefore, Monday's release represents "rejected" data - although Planck scientists stress there will be many researchers for whom this information will still hold high value.
"For the primary CMB, we want to remove all the galactic emission - but it's an important part of the science case for Planck that you can also learn a lot about the galaxy from that data," Planck team-member Professor George Efstathiou told BBC News.