Galactic halos are more massive and complex than experts have been thinking so far, according to the latest reports coming from Space.com.
The website cites info from the latest observations of the Hubble Space Telescope.
The telescope has turned its sights on the Andromeda galaxy these days and it used dozens of quasars in order to map the galactic halo. Andromeda is also known as M31 and this is a spiral-shaped galaxy and it has a similar size to Milky Way.
Space.com notes that cosmically, it’s really close to us – just 2.5 million light-years away, and, in other words, this means that Hubble can study its halo in unprecedented detail.
“This is truly a unique experiment because only with Andromeda do we have information on its halo along not only one or two sightlines, but over 40,” lead researcher Nicolas Lehner, an astrophysicist at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, stated at NASA.
Hubble is analyzing 43 quasars
He continued and said: “This is groundbreaking for capturing the complexity of a galaxy halo beyond our own Milky Way.”
The sightlines are built by the active black holes that are lying at the heart of the galaxies on the opposite side of Andromeda.
The objects called quasars are producing massive light and it’s easier to study the ways in which gasses in the halo are absorbing some of the light compared to studying the halo itself.
Space.com also notes that Hubble is analyzing 43 different quasars beyond Andromeda and analyzed their light in order to map the gaseous charges carbon, oxygen, and silicon in the halo.
“Understanding the huge halos of gas surrounding galaxies is immensely important,” Samantha Berek, an expert stated.
She continued and explained: “This reservoir of gas contains fuel for future star formation within the galaxy, as well as outflows from events such as supernovas. It’s full of clues regarding the past and future evolution of the galaxy, and we’re finally able to study it in great detail in our closest galactic neighbor.”