GalaxyAlert: Gigantic Gas Cloud on Collision Course with Milky Way ("A 2011 Most Popular")
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January 02, 2012

GalaxyAlert: Gigantic Gas Cloud on Collision Course with Milky Way ("A 2011 Most Popular")

                
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"We might be witnessing the final stages of the formation process of our galaxy, " says W. Butler Burton, radio astronomer. A giant cloud of hydrogen gas, clocked at more than 150 miles per second per second, is closing in very fast on the Milky Way, likely setting off a huge burst of star formation. At its current speed, the cloud will collide with interstellar gas in the Milky Way's disk in less than 40 million years, condensing into tens of thousands of bright, massive stars that will explode as supernovas within a couple of million years.

"Its shape, somewhat similar to that of a comet, indicates that it's already hitting gas in our Galaxy's outskirts," said Felix J. Lockman, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory . "It is also feeling a tidal force from the gravity of the Milky Way and may be in the process of being torn apart. Our Galaxy will get a rain of gas from this cloud, then in about 20 to 40 million years, the cloud's core will smash into the Milky Way's plane."

Many clouds of hydrogen surround the Milky Way. But astronomers didn't start spotting them until a half-century ago--after the advent of radio telescopes, which are able to detect cold, neutral hydrogen gas. The early observations were not accurate enough to determine the clouds' distances, masses, or directions of motion.

The hydrogen cloud, named Smith's Cloud after Dutch astronomy student Gail Smith, who discovered it in 1963. Curious about the cloud's elongated shape, a team of astronomers led Lockman o, took tens of thousands of radio brightness measurements. The data reveal that the cloud is just 8000 light-years away from the Milky Way's central plane, making it the closest one known. Its comet-like shape is apparently due to the tidal effects of the Milky Way. 

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The Daily Galaxy via nrao.edu

Comments

Was wondering what effect this phenomenon has as it passes through various star systems, locally. does it disrupt gas giants, or rocky inner worlds? or is the effect. Mostly due to large star formation as the cloud collapses?

Is it meant to be per second per second, or just per second? per second per second is acceleration, in which case its speed would be increasing by another 2.6 times the speed of light every 24 hours. Eerrrrm...

The speed must be a typo, interesting. I must say pretty mundane considering similar occurrences happen within our galaxy all the time.

LOL - thanks rakes you made my day.

It is heading for the Solar system. Date and Time: December 21, 2012 11:59:59 pm (23:59:59 CST)

Well, that sounds promising.

My God, it's full of stars!

No doubt that the future earthlings would experience and see a lot of Supernovae explosions. Could also be that the existance of our solar system would be at stake if there are too many such supernovae exlosions taking place in the vicinity in such a short cosmic timeframe.

Baaa,haaaa,ha,ha... I have survived several worlds end predictions, so bring on 2012 bitches!!!

I agree with Payner. Y2K, the lining up of all the planets, the 2nd coming of Jesus (at least 5 times), nuclear war threats, killer bees, swine flu, alien invasion, Aids, solar flares and even a black president. Still everyone is alive and arguing! (I only hit on a small number of the threats in the last 40 years that I remember.)

Wheew! I thought I read 40 thousand years! That's a relief!

Wait a per second. OK-time/space/distance question-

Since this is all happening so so far away...millions of light years...didn't it already happen in 'real time and we're observing it just now?

cosmosdancer
20 light years away = happened 20 years ago.
2 million light years away = happened 2 millions years ago.
If you was far enough from earth and had a big enough telescope, you could see the asteroid wipe out the dinosaurs.

cosmosdancer, while some alien billions of light years away could see the asteroid wipe out the dinosaurs, YOU couldn't because it would require you to travel faster than the signal from the event, ie faster than light.

and Dana, there is no 'real' time, we are experiencing the event now.

Thanks much for all the light years/speed data, folks.

However, my question is really still there, as the article does not say how many Light Years away this area of our MW galaxy is from our star, or how many LYs away is the gas cloud that is portended to impact it.

So, if it is 40 million light years away, what we are 'seeing' is the light from 40 million years ago, geo-centric earth 'time.' If it is 400 million LY away, then what we are seeing is the record of what it was 400 million LY ago.

Just as when we look into the Deep Field, we are seeing 13.whatever billion years ago, but that matter/light/structure in the images we capture doesn't look like what we see from here/now anymore; it is 13.whatever billion years older, and we would not be able to see it as it is right 'now' until 13.whatever billion years in the future. Being constricted to our earth-based observation point-of-view does not change the fact that any observations we make are looking into the past...either near or very distant, still the past. Light travels at the fastest rate known in our current understanding of our verse, but it's still a record of what WAS when it reaches us.

So: how far away from our solar system is this gaseous cloud and the area of projected impact?

OK, I am trying to look smart here. It says the cloud is 8000 light years from the central plane. If the drawing is any sort of scale it looks to be 5000 to 6000 light years from us. Looking at other pictures of the universe the guesstimate is about 6000 to 8000 light years from us to the impact site. Failing at looking smart I know, but without more info its as close as I can say. And yes, it is not where we see it right now. Its where we will see it in approximately 5000 to 6000 in the future.


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