Tech & Science Mysterious Clouds Racing Through Milky Way Discovered

23:21  05 december  2017
23:21  05 december  2017 Source:   Newsweek

Mysterious Clouds Racing Through Milky Way Discovered

  Mysterious Clouds Racing Through Milky Way Discovered The weird clouds could come from another galaxy.Australian astronomer Tobias Westmeier, from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, used a high-resolution image of the sky to produce the most sensitive map of high-velocity clouds ever—the 'all-sky map.

"The Magellanic Clouds may not be true companions of the Milky Way ," said study team member Nitya Kallivayalil of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "Perhaps they are travelers just passing through the neighborhood."

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a star filled sky: The 25th anniversary of the Hubble Telescope was marked by this image featuring a giant hydrogen cloud in the Milky Way.<br /> © Provided by IBT Media The 25th anniversary of the Hubble Telescope was marked by this image featuring a giant hydrogen cloud in the Milky Way.
Mysterious, rapid-moving clouds have been charted in never-before-seen detail on a map of the entire sky. These strange, high-velocity gas clouds are moving at odds with the usual rotation of the Milky Way.

Australian astronomer Tobias Westmeier, from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, used a high-resolution image of the sky to produce the most sensitive map of high-velocity clouds ever—the 'all-sky map.'

Using the map, he was able to highlight the high-velocity clouds, which are moving different speeds to the Milky Way. His results are published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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A dark, mysterious cloud of dust (extending from the center, right) seems to flow out from a bright explosion in this false-color Though astronomers first discovered the dark cloud in the Sagittarius constellation more than 30 years ago, it In its orbit around the Milky Way 's center, the M17 region

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“These gas clouds are moving towards or away from us at speeds of up to a few hundred kilometers per second,” he said in a press release. “They are clearly separate objects.”

Vast, mysterious clouds

These strange clouds are enormous, covering up to 13 percent of the sky. Westmeier’s map reveals the texture and shape of clouds in minute detail, exposing subtle filaments, branches and clumps which were previously invisible.

The map visualizes high-velocity hydrogen clouds using data from the HI4PI survey. © Provided by IBT Media The map visualizes high-velocity hydrogen clouds using data from the HI4PI survey. “It’s something that wasn’t really visible in the past, and it could provide new clues about the origin of these clouds and the physical conditions within them,” he said.

Further still, Westmeier used the map to discover the extragalactic source of some of the clouds. “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,” he said. “But all the rest, the origin is unknown.”

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Theoretical studies have predicted that 100 million to 1 billion black holes should exist in the Milky Way , although only 60 or so have been identified through observations to date. “We found a new way of discovering stray black holes,” said Tomoharu Oka, a professor at Keio University.

The cloud seems to be tearing its way through our galaxy with an enormous amount of kinetic energy. What is even more intriguing is that the cloud seems to be spinning against the direction of the Milky Way .

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way

The Milky Way pictured edge-on.<br /> © Provided by IBT Media The Milky Way pictured edge-on.
The newly discovered clouds are very close—within about 30,000 light years—to the “disk” of the Milky Way. The disk is a way of visualizing objects like planets within the galaxy. As you can see in the image above, the disk is surrounded by a “galactic halo." The edge of this halo extends up to 180,000 billion light-years. Westmeier argues that the closeness of the clouds can help us decipher their origin.

“It’s likely to either be gas that is falling into the Milky Way or outflows from the Milky Way itself,” he said. “For example, if there is star formation or a supernova explosion it could push gas high above the disc.”

Westmeier has made the map freely available online to support “the entire community” of astronomers. If you think you might be able to crack the mystery of these massive gas clouds, you can take a look here.

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