Magellan’s gas stream is 5 times closer to Earth and will collide faster

Magellans gas stream is 5 times closer to Earth and

The Magellanic Current is the name that astronomers give to a huge flow of gas that winds around our Galaxy, the Milky Way. And today, researchers are suggesting that this structure could be much closer to Earth than they first imagined.

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[EN VIDÉO] Zoom on the Magellanic clouds, with the NOIRLab
Images from the Survey of the MAgellanic Stellar History (SMASH) reveal a striking family portrait of our galactic neighbors: the large and small clouds of Magellan. © NOIRLab

In his little corner ofUniverse, our Galaxy is not isolated. It is accompanied by several dwarf galaxies. The clouds of Magellan are the best known of them. They can be observed in the sky of thesouthern hemisphere. And over time, the gravity snatched enormous streams of gas from them: it is the current of Magellan.

This current, researchers are interested in it because it hides some clues both of the past evolution of the Milky Way and its future. A University of Wisconsin team (United States), taking into account a new hypothesis advancing that this current is enveloped in a corona of hot gas, tells us today how, while the dwarf galaxies were captured by the Milky Way, the little magellanic cloud gravitated around the great Magellanic cloud in a direction opposite to that imagined by the astronomers. What arch the current of Magellan towards the Earth rather than in the opposite direction.

Part of the history of the Milky Way to rewrite

So this gas flow could be five times closer to us than astronomers thought until then. Approaching up to some 65,000 light years. In fact, it could also be up to five times lighter. And most importantly, colliding with the Milky Way much earlier than the researchers had calculated. In only about 50 million years, then refueling the new star formation.

This work should also allow astronomers to finally get their hands on the stars which were torn from their respective galaxy with these gas streams forming the Magellanic current. Because if these have escaped them for several decades now, it is ultimately not because they were too far away and therefore too little light. But maybe just … because they weren’t looking in the right place.

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