Nav: Home

New space image reveals cosmic 'candy cane'

December 18, 2019

Deep in our Milky Way galaxy's center, a candy cane emerges as the centerpiece of a new, colorful composite image from a NASA camera, just in time for the holidays.

The image--captured by a NASA-designed and built instrument called the Goddard-IRAM Superconducting 2-Millimeter Observer, or GISMO--shows the inner part of our galaxy, which hosts the largest, densest collection of giant molecular clouds in the Milky Way. These vast, cool clouds contain enough dense gas and dust to form tens of millions of stars like the Sun. The view spans a part of the sky about 1.5 degrees across, equivalent to roughly three times the apparent size of the Moon.

Two papers describing the image, one led by Johannes Staguhn at The Johns Hopkins University and the other led by Richard Arendt at The University of Maryland, were recently published in The Astrophysical Journal.

"The galactic center is an enigmatic region with extreme conditions where velocities are higher and objects frequently collide with each other," says Staguhn, who leads the GISMO team at NASA'S Goddard Space Flight Center.

"GISMO gives us the opportunity to observe microwaves with a wavelength of 2 millimeters at a large scale, combined with an angular resolution that perfectly matches the size of galactic center features we are interested in. Such detailed, large-scale observations have never been done before."

The studies detail how, after spending 8 hours looking at the sky and collecting data, GISMO detected the most prominent radio filament in the galactic center, making this the shortest wavelength where these curious structures have been observed. Scientists say the filaments delineate the edges of a large bubble produced by some energetic event at the galactic center.

"We're very intrigued by the beauty of this image; it's exotic. When you look at it, you feel like you're looking at some really special forces of nature in the universe," muses Staguhn.

The image is a composite of different color codes for emission mechanisms. Blue and cyan features reveal cold dust in molecular clouds where star formation is still in its infancy. Yellow features reveal the presence of ionized gas and show well-developed star factories; this light comes from electrons that are slowed but not captured by gas ions, a process also known as free-free emission. Red and orange regions show areas where synchrotron emission occurs, such as in the prominent Radio Arc and Sagittarius A, the bright source at the galaxy's center that hosts its supermassive black hole.

To make the image, the team acquired GISMO data, shown in green, in April and November 2012. They then used archival observations from the European Space Agency's Herschel satellite to model the far-infrared glow of cold dust, which they then subtracted from the GISMO data. Next, they added, in blue, existing 850-micrometer infrared data from the SCUBA-2 instrument on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. Finally, they added, in red, archival longer-wavelength 19.5-centimeter radio observations from the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array. The higher-resolution infrared and radio data were then processed to match the lower-resolution GISMO observations. The team used GISMO in concert with a 30-meter radio telescope located on Pico Veleta, Spain.

Moving forward, Staguhn hopes to upgrade and take GISMO to the Greenland Telescope to make large surveys on the sky looking for the first galaxies in the universe where stars formed.

"There's a good chance that a significant part of star formation that occurred during the universe's infancy is obscured and can't be detected by tools we've been using, and GISMO will be able to help detect what was previously unobservable," says Staguhn.
-end-


Johns Hopkins University

Related Star Formation Articles:

Star formation project maps nearby interstellar clouds
Astronomers have captured new, detailed maps of three nearby interstellar gas clouds containing regions of ongoing high-mass star formation.
Scientists discover pulsating remains of a star in an eclipsing double star system
Scientists from the University of Sheffield have discovered a pulsating ancient star in a double star system, which will allow them to access important information on the history of how stars like our Sun evolve and eventually die.
Distant milky way-like galaxies reveal star formation history of the universe
Thousands of galaxies are visible in this radio image of an area in the Southern Sky, made with the MeerKAT telescope.
Cascades of gas around young star indicate early stages of planet formation
What does a gestating baby planet look like? New research in Nature by a team including Carnegie's Jaehan Bae investigated the effects of three planets in the process of forming around a young star, revealing the source of their atmospheres.
Massive exoplanet orbiting tiny star challenges planet formation theory
Astronomers have discovered a giant Jupiter-like exoplanet in an unlikely location -- orbiting a small red dwarf star.
ALMA pinpoints the formation site of planet around nearest young star
Researchers using ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) found a small dust concentration in the disk around TW Hydrae, the nearest young star.
Star formation burst in the Milky Way 2-3 million years ago
A team led by researchers of the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona and the Besançon Astronomical Observatory have found, analysing data from the Gaia satellite, that a severe star formation burst occurred in the Milky Way about to and three thousand million years ago.
The rise and fall of Ziggy star formation and the rich dust from ancient stars
Researchers have detected a radio signal from abundant interstellar dust in MACS0416_Y1, a galaxy 13.2 billion light-years away in the constellation Eridanus.
Lifting the veil on star formation in the Orion Nebula
Writing in 'Nature', an international research team including astronomers from Cologne describe their discovery that stellar wind from a newborn star in the Orion Nebula is preventing more stars from forming nearby.
Massive star's unusual death heralds the birth of compact neutron star binary
Carnegie's Anthony Piro was part of a Caltech-led team of astronomers who observed the peculiar death of a massive star that exploded in a surprisingly faint and rapidly fading supernova, possibly creating a compact neutron star binary system.
More Star Formation News and Star Formation Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.