The Cold Dust That Cloaks Our Galaxy

This new photograph of the Milky Way's galactic plane, taken by the ESA's Planck Observatory, reveals the massive plumes of cold dust that swirl high above and below the star fields of our galaxy.

According to Space.com:

The new image is color-coded to depict the temperatures of different regions within the view. The whitish-pink areas are regions that are just a few tens of degrees above absolute zero, the theoretical coldest temperature possible in the universe (minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 273 degrees Celsius). Deeper, richer colors mark areas of minus 437 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 261 degrees Celsius). That's just 12 degrees Celsius warmer than absolute zero. While the warmer dust is concentrated along the plane of the Milky Way, the colder dust hovers above and below the galaxy's plane.

Nobody is entirely sure what causes the dust to take these precise shapes, though it's believed to be affected by the galaxy's rotation, as well as "particle jets" and radiation. Some of the clouds you see are made of dust, and others contain molecule storms. Some regions may eventually collapse and form star nurseries.

via Space.com