Astronomers have discovered one of the largest structures ever seen in the Milky Way

In this part of the Milky Way are Maggies, the longest hydrogen filaments in the entire galaxy.

about 13.8 billion years old, The universe was born in a gigantic explosion that gave rise to the first subatomic particles and the laws of physics as we know them.

on 370,000 After years hydrogen, the building block of stars, that merge hydrogen s Helio On the inside to create all the heaviest elements. While hydrogen remains the most prevalent element in the universe, It can be difficult to detect individual clouds of hydrogen gas in the interstellar medium (ISM).

This makes it difficult to investigate the early stages of star formation, which would provide clues about the evolution of stars. galaxies and the Universe.

An international team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) Recently, I noticed huge filaments of atomic hydrogen gas in our galaxy. This structure is called ‘Maggie is located about 55,000 light-years away (on the opposite side of the Milky Way) and is one of the tallest structures ever observed in our galaxy.

The study describing their findings recently appeared in the journal Astronomy and astrophysics, led by Jonas Seid, Ph.D. Student at MPIA. He was joined by researchers from the University of Vienna, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIFR), University of Calgary, University of Heidelberg, Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, Argelander Institute of Astronomy, Indian Institute of Science and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

The research is based on data obtained from the Milky Way HI/OH/Recombination Line Survey (THOR), Karl G. Jansky’s Very Large Array (VLA)-based monitoring program in New Mexico.

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Using centimeter wave radio panels from VLA, This project studies the formation of molecular clouds, the conversion of atomic to molecular hydrogen, the magnetic field of the galaxy, and other issues related to the ISM and star formation.

The ultimate goal is to determine how the two most common isotopes of hydrogen are related They create thick clouds that rise to new stars. Isotopes include atomic hydrogen (H), made up of a proton, an electron, and no neutrons, and molecular hydrogen (H), or deuterium, made up of a proton, a neutron and an electron.

The latter only condense into relatively compact clouds that will develop icy regions where new stars will eventually appear.

The process of transition from atomic hydrogen to molecular hydrogen is still largely unknown, which made this extremely long thread a particularly exciting find.

While the largest known molecular gas clouds are about 800 light-years across, Magi is 3,900 light-years long and 130 light-years wide. As Syed explained in a recent MPIA press release: “The location of this filament has contributed to this success. We still don’t know exactly how it got there. But the filament extends about 1,600 light-years below the plane of the Milky Way.”“.

Above: The section of the Milky Way, measured by the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite (above).  The box indicates the location of the filament
Above: The section of the Milky Way, measured by the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite (above). The square indicates the location of the “Maggie” filament and the false color image of the atomic hydrogen distribution (below), the red line indicates the “Maggie” filament

The team’s analysis showed that the substance in the threads has With an average velocity of 54 km/s-1, it was determined primarily by measuring it against the rotation of the Milky Way’s disk. This means that the 21-cm radiation (also known as the “hydrogen line”) was visible against the cosmic background, making the structure visible.

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“The observations also allowed us to determine the velocity of hydrogen gas,” said Henrik Beuther, director of THOR and co-author of the study. “This allowed us to show that the velocities along the filament hardly differ.”

starting from this, The researchers concluded that Magee is a cohesive structure. These results confirmed observations made a year ago by Juan de Soler, an astrophysicist at the University of Vienna and one of the authors of the paper.

When he noticed the thread, he named it the longest river in his native Colombia: the Magdalena River (English: Margaret or “Maggie”). While Maggie could have been identified in Soller’s previous assessment of the THOR data, Only the current study proves beyond a reasonable doubt that it is a coherent structure.

Based on previously published data, the team also estimated that Maggie contains 8% molecular hydrogen in mass fraction.

Upon closer examination, the team noticed that the gas converged at various points along the filament, leading them to conclude that hydrogen gas was accumulating in large clouds at those locations. Furthermore, they speculate that the atomic gas will gradually condense into molecular form in those environments.

However, there are many unanswered questions. Syed added. “The additional data, which we hope will give us more clues about the molecular gas fraction, is already waiting to be analyzed.”

Fortunately, several space and ground-based observatories will soon be operational, telescopes that will be equipped to study these filaments in the future. These include the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and radio studios such as the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), which will allow us to see the earliest period of the universe (“cosmic dawn”) and the first stars in our universe.

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Lovell Loxley

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