'All-sky' map reveals giant gas clouds speeding through space

A new study sheds light on the large, fast-moving gas clouds speeding throughout the cosmos.
By Joseph Scalise | Dec 06, 2017
Tobias Westmeier, an astronomer fromthe International Center for Radio Astronomy Research, has discovered enormous gas clouds speeding through the distant reaches of our galaxy, according to new findings published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Westmeiermade this discovery by using a high-resolution image of the sky -- known as the "all-sky" map -- to get an extremely in-depth look at high-velocity clouds. He was then able to use that information to highlight the high-velocity clouds and show that they move at different speeds than the Milky Way. That difference is important because it shows the gas formations are distinct objects.

"These gas clouds are moving towards or away from us at speeds of up to a few hundred kilometers per second," explained Westmeier, in a statement. "They are clearly separate objects."

The clouds are gigantic, and cover more than 13 percent of the sky. The all-sky map reveals their texture and shape in high detail, and gives insight into numerous features -- including subtle filaments, branches, and clumps -- that were previously invisible. Such information is important because it could provide new clues about the origins of these clouds and give insight into the physical conditions contained within them.

Not only that, but the map revealed the source of some of the clouds as well.The newly discovered formations are within 30,000 light years of the Milky Way's "disk", which is in turn surrounded by a "galactic halo." The edge of that halo extends up to 180,000 billion light-years. Looking at the closeness of the clouds could help shed light on where they came from and possibly show how they are originally formed.

"We know for certain the origin of one of the long trails of gas, known as the Magellanic Stream, because it seems to be connected to the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds," added Westmeier, according to Newsweek. "But all the rest, the origin is unknown."

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