Weaving the plot of the Milky Way

The latest images of huge filaments of gas and dust produced by the ESA Herschel space telescope show the way in which the material is distributed in our galaxy. The Italian researchers Sergio Molinari from INAF – IAPS suggests that: “It’s a bit like the bones of the spiral arms of the Milky Way.”
Three warps are stretched thin and what emerges from lumps of matter on which the European Space Agency’s Herschel telescope has looked. Three large filaments that give rise to figures more and more intricate, hand in hand that the powders and gases which form them are more dense and colder. Two of them also show, in one end, a sort of “head”, a tuft of matter brighter. To describe the structure, an article – in press on MNRAS – signed by researchers at ESO and INAF, including Leonardo Testi and Malcolm Walmsley of the Astrophysical Observatory of Arcetri, and Sergio Molinari and Eugenio Schisano of the IAPS Rome.


Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Ke Wang et al. 2015

“With masses ranging from the thousands to tens of thousands of times that of the Sun, these filaments are some of the most extensive, and may be represented as the “bones” of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. They are, however, “says Molinari, head of the project Hi-GAL, the survey data on which the study is based,” only part of the network far more extensive and pervasive pattern of filamentary structures that you want to shocks in colliding flows in a large scale, turbulence or gravitational instability, they form a real skeleton of the galaxy that extends from the central areas to peripheral ones, beyond the Solar Circle. ”
Although the powder represents only a minor ingredient of this cocktail of cosmic matter, at wavelengths explored by Herschel – those of the far-infrared and submillimeter wavelengths – we see it shine intensely. This allowed astronomers, led by Wang Ke ESO, to identify for the first time, in these tangles of matter, regions colder and denser, shown in false-color images in red and yellow.
The filaments are further punctuated by the brightest spots: these incubators cosmic or regions in which the seeds of what will become the next generation of stars are beginning to take shape. The glow bluish and purplish spots confused that embellish the filaments are pockets of warmer material, made incandescent by the intense radiation emitted by newborn stars and still enclosed within them.
Before Herschel produces these images, filament so great were known only two. But now, thanks to the data produced by the ESA Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered a number of other, long woven spiral arms of the Milky Way. “These results,” Molinari points out, “are part of a much larger showing how such structures are kept alive and vital, continuing to grow as more and more large fragments that you are differentiating within them up to form new generations of stars.”

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