MIPSGAL is an extensive infrared survey of the Galactic plane of the Milky Way, our Galaxy, using the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astronomers use infrared light (light of longer wavelength than visible light) to observe objects cooler than stars including clumps of gas collapsing to form stars (called protostars) and peer through the gas and dust obscuring our view of more distant regions such as the center of our Galaxy. The obscuring dust which blocks optical light can often be bright in the infrared. In particular, MIPSGAL is designed to identify all of the massive protostars forming in our Galaxy and map the dust distibution of the plane of our Galaxy.
In the last few decades there have been surveys of our Galaxy using multiple telescopes in space and on Earth. Some of the best known infrared surveys of the Galactic plane come from IRAS (1984), MSX (2001), and ISO(2003) observations. New telescopes over time continue to improve in par with science and technological development. The Spitzer Space Telescope is currently the most advanced infrared space telescope and provides astronomers with valuable data of the night sky.
The survey, MIPSGAL, encompasses 278 square degrees of the inner Galactic plane, which will pry open many unanswered questions, such as the detailed energetics and distribution of the small silicate particles and hydrocarbon molecules comprising the interstellar dust in our galaxy and the how the most massive stars form. While this survey only covers 0.7% of the sky, most of the stars, gas and dust that make up our own Galaxy are imaged by these observations. More than twenty years has passed since IRAS made its initial surveys of the galactic plane, and astronomers still continue to extract more science out of it. The MIPSGAL survey aims to continue this trend of resourcefulness along with other complementary surveys on the Spitzer Space Telescope, such as GLIMPSE, a shorter wavelength infrared survey of the Galactic plane.
Surveys like MIPSGAL, contain an exciting feature, serendipity; that is, a discovery of something by chance. Since MIPSGAL is so extensive and contains a plethora of data, someone who looks carefully over the survey may discover something new! If you're up for a challenge and would like to see the survey in detail go to the map section.