Astronomers Are Baffled at the Discovery of a Huge Structure in the Milky Way Galaxy – Nobody Knows Exactly What It Is

Astronomers Are Baffled at the Discovery of a Huge Structure in the Milky Way Galaxy – Nobody Knows Exactly What It Is

Containing somewhere between 100 billion and 200 billion stars, our Milky Way galaxy always finds ways to amaze us all. Astronomers will probably never uncover all of its secrets, but it’s sure worth trying.

The newly discovered structure is known as the Cattail, and it confuses astronomers. We’re talking about a long curl of gas that’s extremely large. The structure measures roughly 3,590 light-years in length and 675 light-years for its width. Due to its size, astronomers can’t figure out if they’re dealing or not with a part of a spiral arm of our galaxy that wasn’t noticed before.

The largest filament of gas in the Milky Way?

Credit:, Pete Linforth
Credit:, Pete Linforth

The Cattail could turn out to be the largest filament of gas from our galaxy that was ever discovered. A scientific team led by Chong Li, who is an astronomer from Nianjing University, used the FAST radio telescope to look for clouds containing neutral atomic hydrogen. In August 2019, the researchers obtained data from FAST revealing what appeared as an enormous structure.

As revealed in the study paper, the researchers have plenty of work to do regarding the Cattail:

The question about how such a huge filament is produced at the extreme galactic location remains open. Alternatively, Cattail might be part of a new arm … though it is puzzling that the structure does not fully follow the warp of the galactic disk.

The researchers are optimistic that they’ve been dealing with observations that provide new insights when it comes to the understanding of the galactic structure.
Having a diameter of about 100,000 light-years, the Milky Way can surely amaze us all a lot more.

The new discovery was described in a paper accepted for The Astrophysical Journal Letters, which is available on preprint server arXiv.

Cristian Antonescu

Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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