NASA and the European Space Agency used old data from four retired space telescopes to create new images of the four closest to our own Milky Way. The images are full of dust.

The Herschel Space Observatory, the Planck observatory, and two retired NASA missions are part of the retired observatory.

Depending on the wavelength of the light, the clouds of dust and gas can either be easily detected by the long-IR telescopes or the short-IR telescopes.

Herschel's images were the first to be used by the team. Limits in the design of the telescope meant it missed up to 30% of the light that illuminates the dust in our Universe. Researchers used data from three other retired missions and additional data from several different radio telescopes to fill in the gaps.

Christopher Clark, an astronomer at the Space Science Telescope Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, led the work to create the new images.

Dust is created by dying stars and is a material that forms new stars.

The dust clouds observed by space telescopes are shaped by exploding stars, stellar winds, and the effects of gravity. Half of the stars are absorbed by dust. Dust grains in space are where the heavy chemical elements are locked up. Dust is an important part of our universe.

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are dwarf galaxies that do not have the spiral structure of the Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies. All four are close to Earth.

The Large Magellanic Cloud, as seen by the Herschel Space Telescope, Planck, COBE and IRAS. Credit: ESA and NASA.

There is a large cloud in the picture. It shows a red tail coming off the bottom left of the galaxy that is 888-609- 888-609- 888-609- 888-609-. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. The regions where stars have recently formed are the ones with the empty space. The green light around the edges of those bubbles shows the presence of cold dust that has piled up as a result of those winds. The blue colour shows where the stars are forming and how the dust has been heated.

The Small Magellanic Cloud is a satellite of the Milky Way, containing about 3 billion stars. This far-infrared and radio view of it shows the cool (green) and warm (blue) dust, as well as the hydrogen gas (red). Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/CSIRO/NANTEN2/C. Clark (STScI)

About 3 billion stars are contained in the Small Magellanic Cloud. The hydrogen gas and dust can be seen in this far-infrared and radio view. The Parkes, ATCA, and NANTEN radio telescopes were used to create the image.

The Triangulum galaxy, or M33. Credit: ESA, NASA, NASA-JPL, Caltech, Christopher Clark (STScI), E. Koch (University of Alberta), C. Druard (University of Bordeaux)

The Triangulum galaxy, or M33, is shown here in two different ways. Some of the hydrogen gas that traces the edge of the Triangulum's disc was pulled in from other parts of the universe. There are additional data from the Green Bank Telescope.

The Andromeda galaxy, or M31. CREDIT: ESA, NASA, NASA-JPL, Caltech, Christopher Clark (STScI), R. Braun (SKA Observatory), C. Nieten (MPI Radioastronomie), Matt Smith (Cardiff University)

The M31 is shown in the far-IR and radio wavelength. Some of the hydrogen gas was pulled in from other places and some was torn away from other places. Additional data came from the Green Bank Telescope and the IRAM radio telescopes.

Hubble site and JPL are sources.