A group of astronomers discovered a huge cloud of hot, faintly glowing gas in space, which is larger than the Milky Way. They say that the cosmic gas cloud is the first of its kind and may have been stripped from the galaxy. What they found most surprising is that the clouds have gathered together for hundreds of millions of years without dissipating. The team is led by astronomer Chong Ge of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, USA, using the XMM-Newton X-ray telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Multi-unit Spectral Detector (MUSE) on the Very Large Telescope (VLT), Research with Subaru Telescope.
When analyzing the X-ray emission, the researchers found that the cloud was larger than they initially expected. They say that the mass of clouds may be 10 billion times that of the sun.
The research titled “H α/X-ray Orphan Cloud as a Sign of Medium Aggregation in the Cluster” has been published in the Monthly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society. The full study can be accessed here.
Sun Ming, a physicist from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said this is an exciting and surprising discovery. “This shows that, as the oldest natural science, there will always be new surprises in astronomy,” Sun said.
Studies have shown that the temperature of the cloud is between 10,000 and 10,000,000 Kelvin. This is consistent with the gas found in the galaxy and indicates that cloud gas is stripped from the galaxy as the galaxy passes through space.
One of the other aspects of clouds that astronomers want to understand is how the gas did not diffuse despite being stripped from the galaxy hundreds of millions of years ago. They performed calculations to find that magnetic fields can gather gas clouds to resist long-term instability. Having said that, the scientists also concluded that, considering the mass of the cloud, the galaxy torn by it is also “large and massive,” which may help them track which galaxy it is.
Current data will also help researchers identify other similar clouds in the future. Scientists say that they now have observational evidence that the medium within the cluster can strip gas from the galaxy.
“As the first isolated cloud that emits light in both H-α lines and X-rays in a galaxy cluster, it shows that the gas removed from the galaxy can form clumps in the medium of the galaxy cluster, and these clumps can be Future optical survey data found in the wide field of view,” Sun said.