Map Of Galactic Clouds Takes Shape
A UNSW-led team of astronomers has begun to map the location of the most massive and mysterious objects in our galaxy – the giant gas clouds where new stars are born.
Using a telescope at Coonabarabran that narrowly escaped devastation in a recent bushfire, the team identifies the galactic clouds of molecular gas – which can be up to 100 light years across – from the carbon monoxide they contain.
“On Earth, carbon monoxide is poisonous – a silent killer. But in space, it is the second most abundant molecule and the easiest to see,” says Professor Michael Burton, of the UNSW School of Physics, who leads the team. “One of the largest unresolved mysteries in galactic astronomy is how these giant, diffuse clouds form in the interstellar medium. This process plays a key role in the cosmic cycle of birth and death of stars.”