Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Map of galactic clouds where stars are born takes shape

Date:
September 11, 2013
Source:
University of New South Wales
Summary:
Astronomers have completed the first stage of a map of the location of the most massive and mysterious objects in our galaxy -- the giant gas clouds where new stars are born. They identify the clouds -- which can be up to 100 light years across -- from the carbon monoxide they contain.

The Mopra Telescope in Coonabarabran, NSW, Australia, that is used to map the location of the giant gas clouds in the Milky Way where stars are born.
Credit: UNSW

A UNSW-led team of astronomers has begun to map the location of the most massive and mysterious objects in our galaxy -- the giant gas clouds where new stars are born.

Using a telescope at Coonabarabran that narrowly escaped devastation in a recent bushfire, the team identifies the galactic clouds of molecular gas -- which can be up to 100 light years across -- from the carbon monoxide they contain.

"On Earth, carbon monoxide is poisonous -- a silent killer. But in space, it is the second most abundant molecule and the easiest to see," says Professor Michael Burton, of the UNSW School of Physics, who leads the team.

"One of the largest unresolved mysteries in galactic astronomy is how these giant, diffuse clouds form in the interstellar medium. This process plays a key role in the cosmic cycle of birth and death of stars."

A research paper on the first stage of the work -- covering a region of the sky about the size of four full moons -- is published in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

The carbon monoxide survey of the Southern Milky Way is being carried out with the 22 metre Mopra millimetre wave telescope at Coonabarabran. While the adjoining workshop, office, and accommodation wing were destroyed in the bushfire in January, the telescope's control room survived because it was encased in brick.

The international team is also searching for "dark" galactic gas clouds -- unseen clouds that contain very little carbon monoxide. It is assumed these clouds are mostly made up of molecular hydrogen which is too cold to detect.

The team is using telescopes in Antarctica and Chile to search for these dark clouds, based on the presence of carbon atoms, rather than carbon molecules, in the clouds.

"Taken together, these three surveys will provide us with a picture of the distribution and movement of gas clouds in our galaxy," says Professor Burton.

Dark clouds, if found, could also be the "missing" source of gamma rays, which are produced when high-energy cosmic rays interact with the nuclei of gas atoms or molecules they encounter when travelling through space.

"The source of more than 30 per cent of gamma rays remains unidentified -- another big mystery our research could throw light on," says Professor Burton.

Some of the options for how large giant molecular clouds form include the gravitational collapse of an ensemble of small clouds into a larger one, or the random collision of small clouds which then agglomerate.

About one star per year, on average, is formed in the Milky Way. Stars that explode and die then replenish the gas clouds, as well as moving the gas about and mixing it up.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael G. Burton, C. Braiding, C. Glueck, P. Goldsmith, J. Hawkes, D. J. Hollenbach, C. Kulesa, C. L. Martin, J. L. Pineda, G. Rowell, R. Simon, A. A. Stark, J. Stutzki, N. J. H. Tothill, J. S. Urquhart, C. Walker, A. J. Walsh, M. Wolfire. The Mopra Southern Galactic Plane CO Survey. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 2013; 30 DOI: 10.1017/pasa.2013.22

Cite This Page:

University of New South Wales. "Map of galactic clouds where stars are born takes shape." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130911093214.htm>.
University of New South Wales. (2013, September 11). Map of galactic clouds where stars are born takes shape. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130911093214.htm
University of New South Wales. "Map of galactic clouds where stars are born takes shape." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130911093214.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) — Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins