It would be easy to mistake these colorful images as impressionistic works of art, perhaps a painting created by the likes of Vincent Van Gogh or Claude Monet. However, in reality, these are real images captured by the European Space Agency's Planck Space Observatory. Over the last several years, Planck has been hard at work mapping the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) — sometimes referred to as the afterglow of the big bang.
In one of its latest ventures, Planck spent well over 1,500 days mapping the direction in which light travels in our galaxy, which yields clues about the Milky Way's magnetic field. While this method doesn't paint a clear picture of said magnetic field, when paired with light's polarization imprint, much data can be gathered.
As Joanna Dunkley, from Oxford University's Department of Physics, explains
At the end of the day, this data could be incredibly important in our search for gravitational waves. After much ado, earlier this year, physicists claimed to have discovered long-sought-after big bang gravitational waves, which, in turn, supported cosmic inflation, but those results were cast into doubt soon afterward.