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New Map of Milky Way Reveals Giant Wave of Stellar Nurseries

11 Jan 2020, 16:09 UTC
New Map of Milky Way Reveals Giant Wave of Stellar Nurseries
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Astronomers at Harvard University have discovered a monolithic, wave-shaped gaseous structure - the largest ever seen in our galaxy - made up of interconnected stellar nurseries. Dubbed the "Radcliffe wave" in honor of the collaboration's home base, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the discovery transforms a 150-year-old vision of nearby stellar nurseries as an expanding ring into one featuring an undulating, star-forming filament that reaches trillions of miles above and below the galactic disk.The work, published in Nature on 7 January, was enabled by a new analysis of data from the European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft, launched in 2013 with the mission of precisely measuring the position, distance, and motion of the stars. The research team combined the super-accurate data from Gaia with other measurements to construct a detailed, 3D map of interstellar matter in the Milky Way, and noticed an unexpected pattern in the spiral arm closest to the Earth.The researchers discovered a long, thin structure, about 9,000 light years long and 400 light years wide, with a wave-like shape, cresting 500 light years above and below the mid-plane of our Galaxy's disk. The Wave includes many of the stellar nurseries that were previously thought to form part ...

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