Giant clouds of molecular gas – the most massive objects in our galaxy – are the birthplaces of stars.
A UNSW-led team has used a telescope in Antarctica to identify a giant gas cloud in our galaxy which appears to be in an early stage of formation. Image is of the PLATO-R observatory at Ridge A. The HEAT telescope is the black object on stilts at left, the instrument module is the yellow box and the solar panel array is on the right.
Credit: Image: Geoff Sims
"This newly discovered gas cloud is shaped like a very long filament, about 200 light years in extent and ten light years across, with a mass about 50,000 times that of our sun," says team leader, Professor Michael Burton, an astronomer at UNSW Australia.
"The evidence suggests it is in the early stages of formation, before any stars have turned on."
The results are published in The Astrophysical Journal.
The team is using the High Elevation Antarctic Terahertz telescope, or HEAT, at Ridge A, along with the Mopra telescope at Coonabarabran in NSW, to map the location of gas clouds in our galaxy from the carbon they contain.
At 4000 metres elevation, Ridge A is one of the coldest places on the planet, and the driest. The lack of water vapour in the atmosphere there allows terahertz radiation from space to reach the ground and be detected.
The PLATO-R robotic observatory with the HEAT telescope was installed in 2012 by a team led by UNSW physicist, Professor Michael Ashley, and Dr Craig Kulesa of the University of Arizona.
"We now have an autonomous telescope observing our galaxy from the middle of Antarctica and getting data, which is a stunning new way of doing science. Ridge A is more than 900 kilometres from the nearest people, who are at the South Pole, and is completely unattended for most of the year," says Professor Burton.
The HEAT telescope detects atomic carbon and the Mopra telescope detects carbon monoxide. "I call it following the galactic carbon trail," says Professor Burton.
The discovery of the new galactic cloud, which is about 15,000 light years from earth, will help determine how these mysterious objects develop in the interstellar medium.
One theory is that they are formed from the gravitational collapse of an ensemble of small clouds into a larger one. Another involves the random collision of small clouds that then agglomerate. Or it may be that the molecular gas filament is condensing out of a very large, surrounding cloud of atomic gas.
About one star per year, on average, is formed in the Milky Way. Stars that explode and die then replenish the gas clouds as well as moving the gas about and mixing it up.
The team includes researchers from Australia, Germany and the US.
Media contacts:Professor Michael Burton: +61 (2) 9385 5618, firstname.lastname@example.org
Deborah Smith | EurekAlert!
Ground-breaking research could challenge underlying principles of physics
23.11.2015 | University of Southampton
Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism
20.11.2015 | Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.
In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...
In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.
Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...
Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...
AWI researchers’ unique 15-year observation series reveals how sensitive marine ecosystems in polar regions are to change
The warming of arctic waters in the wake of climate change is likely to produce radical changes in the marine habitats of the High North. This is indicated by...
Berkeley Lab researchers develop nanoparticles that can carry therapeutics across the brain blood barrier
Glioblastoma multiforme, a cancer of the brain also known as "octopus tumors" because of the manner in which the cancer cells extend their tendrils into...
17.11.2015 | Event News
21.10.2015 | Event News
20.10.2015 | Event News
24.11.2015 | Trade Fair News
24.11.2015 | Trade Fair News
24.11.2015 | Life Sciences