- Scientists accidentally find massive invisible galactic structures.
- Astronomers define the vacuum of space as the empty space between stars and planets.
- They identified the huge structure after hundreds of hours of research, using multiple techniques and even a different telescope.
Scientists accidentally found a massive, previously unknown cosmic structure that might change our understanding of how stars form. The structure, which is composed of a huge quantity of gas, extends across the disc of the Milky Way Galaxy and maybe beyond.
A team of astronomers lead by Ron Allen, a Johns Hopkins University professor of physics and astronomy, made the finding. Astronomers have hypothesized that there may be many more Earth-size planets circling other stars than previously assumed.
An Interstellar Medium
Astronomers define the vacuum of space as the empty space between stars and planets. However, when viewed on a big enough scale, it is clear that even space is not completely empty. It is instead filled with the interstellar medium, a low-density gas and dust combination. This gas’s primary constituents are molecular hydrogen (H2) and other chemicals.
Due to the scarcity of H2, astronomers must seek other molecules in interstellar gas that can be used to infer its presence, such as carbon monoxide (CO) or hydroxyl (OH) gas (typically carbon monoxide). These additional chemicals are known as tracers.
According to Washington Newsday, Allen detected OH emission but no CO emission while investigating something else in 2012. He reasoned that this OH may relate to a huge cloud of H2. He collaborated with Dave Hogg of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Virginia, as well as Philip Engelke and Michael Busch, both Johns Hopkins University Ph.D. students, to see if they’d use OH as an H2 tracer by analyzing it with the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope.
They realized that OH might be utilized to identify the presence of H2 gas. According to a press release from the Green Bank Observatory, the OH data began filling in the gaps between previous CO observations, indicating molecular gas as an important component in the formation of our Galaxy.
Then Engelke observed a huge, dark patch over the whole field of vision of the telescope. The information below has been condensed. They identified the huge structure after hundreds of hours of research, using multiple techniques and even a different telescope.
According to research, the discovery was “serendipitous” — meaning it was discovered by chance — and the structure was “an extremely wide and ubiquitous” OH emission concentrated around the second quadrant of the other galaxy.
The research, titled “Observational Evidence for a Thick Disk of Dark Molecular Gas in the Outer Galaxy,” was published in The Astrophysical Journal in June.
“Our results imply the existence of a thick disk of diffuse molecular gas in the outer Galaxy previously undetected in all-sky CO surveys,” the study said.