A mysterious structure discovered in the Milky Way

Astronomers needed many years and hundreds of hours of observations with many different instruments to confirm this. A massive structure is hidden in the interstellar medium that fills the galaxy. A thick disk of “black” molecular gas located at the edge of our galaxy.

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[EN VIDÉO] Dark matter lurks in the Milky Way’s halo
Astronomers from Harvard University (United States) have mapped the outer halo of our galaxy. An opportunity for them to pin down the presence of dark matter, this invisible matter thought to be a substantial part of the mass of our universe. Their simulation shows two regions of high density in light blue. The smaller structure visible on the map corresponds to the wake left by the passage in the region of our satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. © NASA / JPL-Caltech / NSF / r. injured / n. Garvito-Camargo and G. Besla

It’s a story as we like them. Of those that can be told from the edge of the fire. No, not the ones that scare kids. But the ones that amaze him and perhaps, one day, lead him to science. This story is from the researchers who thanked Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and with a little help from luck, just discovered, hidden Eyes everybody together Galaxy, a huge structure.

Remember that the interstellar medium is “filled” with dihydrogen (H.)2) This gas is generally invisible astronomers. To map this, they rely on a “tracer”, a signal from another molecules Those who add to it, but in small quantities. Among the classic plotters, carbon monoxide (CO).

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But in 2012, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins University in the United States engaged in an unexpectedly unrelated work made a discovery. Issue Not with CO emission from OH molecules. or OH is also a molecule that appears in clouds from H2 From interstellar medium. What we consider may be the abundant portion of dihydrogen not traced by CO. neutron gas « CO-DARK ».

All observations confirm this

That’s where BGT comes in. In 2015, he was able to show a team of astronomers that OH actually traces this component remarkably well. « CO-DARK » You there2. After prolonged exposure, researchers have thus shown that this molecular gas is a major component of the galaxy’s structure.

But the story does not end there. Astronomers then saw what appeared to be a collision that was different from their observations. They initially believed that it was A. corresponds to the end of arm of the Milky Way. Again, observations confirmed the existence of the volatile structure, but extended over BGT’s full line of sight. What did astronomers then think of as a causal effect? Telescope she herself. Like a background noise. However, after a hundred hours of observation, the 20-meter telescope at Green Bank Observatory – an instrument older than the BGT – also detected the structure in question.

Finally, in 2019, a new series of observations came to confirm the finding. Along with the Milky Way disk is a hitherto unknown, yet large and ubiquitous structure that is consistent with the size of the other components of our Galaxy. A discovery that may have consequences on the theories of star formation, but of course, on those interested in structure, composition and also. Mass Interstellar medium.

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