(ORDO NEWS) — About 13.8 billion years ago, our universe was born in a giant explosion that gave rise to the first subatomic particles and the laws of physics as we know them. About 370,000 years later, hydrogen was formed, which is the “building material” for stars, which burn hydrogen and helium in their bowels to form heavier elements. Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, detecting individual clouds of hydrogen in the interstellar medium is a significant challenge.
This, in turn, makes it difficult to study the early stages of star formation, which provide valuable information about the evolution of galaxies and the Universe as a whole. An international team of astronomers led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Germany, recently discovered a massive filament of atomic hydrogen in our Galaxy. Called Maggie, this structure is located about 55,000 light-years away (on the other side of the Milky Way) and is one of the longest structures ever observed in our galaxy.
Using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) telescope, a team led by Jonas Syed of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy discovered a structure of atomic hydrogen about 3,900 light years long. By comparison, the typical length of hydrogen filaments found in our galaxy is about 800 light years. Maggie’s cloud was estimated by the authors of the work at about 130 light years.
The team’s analysis showed that the matter in this filament has an average speed of about 54 kilometers per second, with this speed changing little from one side of the cloud to the other. From this, the authors concluded that Maggie’s cloud is a coherent structure.
Based on previously published data, the team also estimated that Maggie’s cloud contains 8 percent molecular hydrogen by mass. After doing a more detailed analysis, the team noted the thickening of gas at various points along the filament and assumed that at these points there would be a gradual condensation of atomic gas into molecular gas.
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