Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Failed dwarf galaxy survives galactic collision thanks to full dark-matter jacket

Date:
May 23, 2014
Source:
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Summary:
Like a bullet wrapped in a full metal jacket, a high-velocity hydrogen cloud hurtling toward the Milky Way appears to be encased in a shell of dark matter, according to a new analysis. Astronomers believe that without this protective shell, the high-velocity cloud known as the Smith Cloud would have disintegrated long ago when it first collided with the disk of our Galaxy.

This is a false-color image of the Smith Cloud made with data from the Green Bank Telescope (GBT).
Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF

Like a bullet wrapped in a full metal jacket, a high-velocity hydrogen cloud hurtling toward the Milky Way appears to be encased in a shell of dark matter, according to a new analysis of data from the National Science Foundation's Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT). Astronomers believe that without this protective shell, the high-velocity cloud (HVC) known as the Smith Cloud would have disintegrated long ago when it first collided with the disk of our Galaxy.

If confirmed by further observations, a halo of dark matter could mean that the Smith Cloud is actually a failed dwarf galaxy, an object that has all the right stuff to form a true galaxy, just not enough to produce stars.

"The Smith Cloud is really one of a kind. It's fast, quite extensive, and close enough to study in detail," said Matthew Nichols with the Sauverny Observatory in Switzerland and principal author on a paper accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. "It's also a bit of a mystery; an object like this simply shouldn't survive a trip through the Milky Way, but all the evidence points to the fact that it did."

Previous studies of the Smith Cloud revealed that it first passed through our Galaxy many millions of years ago. By reexamining and carefully modeling the cloud, astronomers now believe that the Smith Cloud contains and is actually wrapped in a substantial "halo" of dark matter -- the gravitationally significant yet invisible stuff that makes up roughly 80 percent of all the matter in the Universe.

"Based on the currently predicted orbit, we show that a dark matter free cloud would be unlikely to survive this disk crossing," observed Jay Lockman, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, and one of the coauthors on the paper. "While a cloud with dark matter easily survives the passage and produces an object that looks like the Smith Cloud today."

The Milky Way is swarmed by hundreds of high-velocity clouds, which are made up primarily of hydrogen gas that is too rarefied to form stars in any detectable amount. The only way to observe these objects, therefore, is with exquisitely sensitive radio telescopes like the GBT, which can detect the faint emission of neutral hydrogen. If it were visible with the naked eye, the Smith Cloud would cover almost as much sky as the constellation Orion.

Most high-velocity clouds share a common origin with the Milky Way, either as the leftover building blocks of galaxy formation or as clumps of material launched by supernovas in the disk of the Galaxy. A rare few, however, are interlopers from farther off in space with their own distinct pedigree. A halo of dark matter would strengthen the case for the Smith Cloud being one of these rare exceptions.

Currently, the Smith Cloud is about 8,000 light-years away from the disk of our Galaxy. It is moving toward the Milky Way at more than 150 miles per second and is predicted to impact again in approximately 30 million years.

"If confirmed to have dark matter this would in effect be a failed galaxy," said Nichols. "Such a discovery would begin to show the lower limit of how small a galaxy could be." The researchers believe this could also improve our understanding of the Milky Way's earliest star formation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Radio Astronomy Observatory. "Failed dwarf galaxy survives galactic collision thanks to full dark-matter jacket." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140523145137.htm>.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory. (2014, May 23). Failed dwarf galaxy survives galactic collision thanks to full dark-matter jacket. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140523145137.htm
National Radio Astronomy Observatory. "Failed dwarf galaxy survives galactic collision thanks to full dark-matter jacket." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140523145137.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later

Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) The space shuttle Discovery launched for the very first time 30 years ago. Here's a look back at its legacy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) Researchers at Fermilab are using a device called "The Holometer" to test whether our universe is actually a 2-D hologram that just seems 3-D. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

Newsy (Aug. 23, 2014) The private spaceflight company says it is preparing a thorough investigation into Friday's mishap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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